A federal judge in Brazil has ordered the temporary suspension of Telegram in the country and established hefty fines due to the supposed lack of collaboration of the company in a national crusade against school violence. According to reports from the local journal O’Globo, Telegram failed to deliver information regarding the actions it is taking against neo-Nazi groups. As a result, it has been blocked by most internet providers in Brazil. The Brazilian justice system is also fining Telegram for this lack of collaboration to the tune of 1 million Brazilian reals (approx $200,000) for each day that passes without the platform turning in the required documents.
The ban is already in effect, with customers of Vivo, Claro, Tim, and Oi, the main internet providers of the country, being unable to access Telegram’s services. In the same way, the main app providers for mobile operating systems have already removed access to Telegram in their stores. Netblocks, an internet observatory organization, certified that the leading internet service providers (ISPs) are already blocking the access of their users to Telegram; however, Netblocks noted this block could be circumvented using available virtual private network (VPN) apps.
Pavel Durov, CEO of Telegram, defended the actions of the company, stating that it was impossible to deliver the data requested by the Brazilian federal court. On his personal Telegram channel, Durov stated: “In Brazil, a court requested data that is technologically impossible for us to obtain. We are appealing the decision and are looking forward to the final resolution. No matter the cost, we will stand up for our users in Brazil and their right to private communication.” Durov reinforced Telegram’s principles, stating that its mission is to “preserve privacy and freedom of speech around the world.”
This is not the first time that Telegram has been subject to this kind of measure. Back in April 2018, the company was also banned in Russia for similar reasons, with Iranian officials calling for a ban on the application that same month. The ban in Brazil has sparked a heated debate about the balance between privacy and the need to combat hate speech and violence. Some argue that the ban is a violation of freedom of speech, while others believe that it is necessary to prevent the spread of hate speech and violence.
As the ban continues, it remains to be seen how Telegram will respond to the Brazilian court’s demands. It is clear, however, that the company is committed to protecting the privacy of its users, even if it means facing legal challenges and fines. The case in Brazil highlights the ongoing tension between privacy and security, and the difficult choices that companies like Telegram must make in order to balance these competing interests.