Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, on Friday, sought the help of tech giants Apple and Google to block Telegram from operating in the country. Moraes cited negligence by Telegram to cooperate with authorities as the primary reason behind the appeal. The court ruling comes at a time when the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, actively uses Telegram to influence his followers amid forthcoming October general elections.
Besides, Telegram has also failed to respond and cooperate with authorities in a different case involving the country’s police requesting the blockage of some profiles and providing blogger Allan dos Santos’ information. Dos Santos, one of the most influential bloggers in Brazil and an ardent supporter and follower of president Bolsonaro, has been accused multiple times of spreading disinformation. “The Telegram platform, at every possible opportunity, failed to heed judicial orders in a total disregard for the Brazilian judiciary,” de Moraes said in his ruling.
In response, according to Reuters, Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov apologized for the company’s “negligence,” and asked the court to delay its ruling for a few days as it sought to improve compliance. Pavel Durov attributed the compliance failure to the company’s shortcomings on email issues. “We definitely could have done a better job,” he said. “I am certain that once a reliable channel of communication is established, we’ll be able to efficiently process takedown requests for public channels that are illegal in Brazil,” wrote Durov in his personal Telegram account. Moraes gave the country’s telecommunications regulator, Anatel 24 hours to implement the suspension until Telegram complies with the orders.
President Bolsonaro’s reliance on using Telegram is accompanied by constant dissemination of disinformation escalated by Telegram’s failure to comply with court orders.
Justice Minister Anderson Torres, among others, criticized Moraes’ decision terming it as ‘monocratic’ and added that “it had harmed millions of Brazilians.”
Milhões de brasileiros sendo prejudicados repentinamente por uma decisão monocrática.
Já determinei a diversos setores do @JusticaGovBR que estudem imediatamente uma solução para restabelecer ao povo o direito de usar a rede social que bem entenderem.
— Anderson Torres (@andersongtorres) March 18, 2022
The Supreme Court’s reliance on Google and Apple as proxies towards blocking Telegram countrywide, however, means the country’s law will only have an impact only if it coincides with Google and/or Apple’s terms of services making it ineffective.
This is not the first time Telegram has shown defiance in complying with laws. In early February, Telegram was criticized in Germany for fuelling an increasingly virulent subculture of anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists who exchanged news about supposed dangers and arranged protests that spilled over into violence.