A Brazilian appeals court has lifted a temporary ban on WhatsApp, hours after a local judge ordered telecoms companies in the South American country to shut down the messaging service for two days.
Brazilians lost their WhatsApp connections around midnight on Thursday, after the company was apparently sanctioned for not collaborating with a criminal investigation. But they were back on the messaging system by midday, furiously sending texts and emojis.
“WhatsApp is so Brazilian that it didn’t even comply with half of its sentence,” a user joked on Twitter.
A judge in Sao Paulo state lifted the block, ruling that it was “not reasonable” for millions of users to be affected by the company’s “inertia” and suggested WhatsApp instead be fined by the country’s courts.
WhatsApp has been at loggerheads with Brazil’s justice system for several months over the company’s refusal to provide information on criminal suspects to Brazilian investigators.
The suspects, targets of a drug trafficking probe, had apparently shared information with each other via WhatsApp messages. After the company repeatedly refused to turn over information to the government, a judge ordered a 48-hour ban on the messaging service.
“This was punishment for not complying with a judicial order,” said Guilherme Leno, a Brazilian telecoms lawyer. “But there are better ways to do this, like fining the company, which would make much more sense in a case like this," Leno told El Pais during the brief WhatsApp blackout.
Many Brazilians also felt the block was excessive. WhatsApp is hugely popular in Brazil, where an estimated 100 million people use it for day-to-day communications and messaging.
Even though the ban lasted just a few hours, some Brazilians were struggling with life without WhatsApp.
“I feel kind of lost," Christian Oliveira, a taxi driver in the southern city of Porto Alegre, told local paper ZeroHora during the ban. Oliveira uses WhatsApp to communicate with dozens of clients and keep up to date with traffic, saving himself expensive cell phone calls.
Police officers also said the ban threatened to make their jobs harder. In many Brazilian cities, local police officers rely on WhatsApp chat groups where residents can report car thefts, muggings and other suspicious activity in real time.
"Without WhatsApp, we feel strange, like we're in a void," said Fernando Maciel, a police captain in Porto Alegre.
But Brazil being Brazil, many people took the inconvenience with a good dose of humor.
On Twitter, Brazilians posted hundreds of amusing messages and memes about the ban under the hashtag #Nessas48HorasEuvou.
"In the next 48 hours I will be like Tom Hanks [in Cast Away]," one user posted.
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, posted a message on his Facebook page shortly after the WhatsApp ban was initially announced.
"I am stunned that our efforts to protect people's data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp," Zuckerberg wrote.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.