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Brazil Blocks WhatsApp For 48 Hours, Telegram Gains 1.5 Million Users

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A Brazilian court has ordered access to WhatsApp blocked for 48 hours, beginning midnight on Dec. 17. The move boosted the number of users for rival messaging service Telegram, as it reportedly gained one million users in just one day.

A Sao Paulo judge initiated the WhatsApp block, ordering the telecommunications companies in Brazil to prevent the usage of the messaging app despite being the most popular one in the country. These companies have long been pushing for the government to halt the growth of WhatsApp, claiming that the free calling option of the service is illegal and unregulated and has led to the decrease of new mobile phone contracts in the country.

The shutdown of WhatsApp could be the start of a brewing change within Brazil regarding net neutrality. Brazil previously prided itself as an advocate for net neutrality, with the passing of the Internet Bill of Rights that restricted the online monitoring on its citizens and the launch of the ambitious initiative to separate the country from the United States Internet amid the NSA surveillance scandal.

However, the Congress of Brazil, now dominated by conservatives and led by a former lobbyist for the telecommunications firms of the country, is looking to rescind the Internet Bill of Rights and replace it with laws that would require citizens to input their details when using apps and websites. This would effectively allow the government to censor the country's social media, as officials would be able to order certain content to be taken down and trace who posted it.

With WhatsApp under siege, users in Brazil have turned to Telegram, with the company claiming that over one million users in the country have signed up with the service. The number of Brazilian users flocking to Telegram will likely increase as the block against WhatsApp goes on.

In addition to the move to Telegram, users in Brazil have raised a storm of protests and complaints against the government. How the ongoing tug of war between net neutrality and conservative Internet policies unfolds remains to be seen, but it is clear that citizens are not just going to give up their rights that easily.

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