Brazil is banning WhatsApp for the next 48 hours

Catherine Neilan
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The service was shut down at midnight local time (Source: Getty)

Brazil has blocked WhatsApp across the entire country for the next two days, for failure to comply with a court order in an ongoing criminal case.

Brazilian phone company association SindiTelebrasil received the order to shut the text service down on Wednesday afternoon. Access to the messaging service was cut off at midnight local time and will be blocked for 48 hours.

WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum said in a post on Facebook: "We are disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many Brazilians have come to depend on, and sad to see Brazil isolate itself from the rest of the world."

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Although WhatsApp is under fire from a number of domestic phone companies, which claim it undermines their business, the demand to block the service stems from a criminal court case, involving a drug trafficker, which allegedly used WhatsApp to commit crimes. Details of the case are being kept under wraps.

The service was shut down after the company did not comply with a judicial order that was issued in July.

The ban is not just annoying for those who want group-text emojis to each other - it could be a matter of life or death as almost nine in 10 doctors in Brazil use WhatsApp to communicate with their patients.

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