Telegram Banned and Unbanned Across Brazil For Political Reason

On Saturday, a federal judge in Brazil partially revised a ruling that suspended the social media app Telegram from the country over its failure to surrender data from neo-Nazi accounts, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, Telegram was temporarily suspended in Brazil due to a police inquiry into a November school shooting in which three people were killed and another 13 wounded in the town of Aracruz in Espirito Santo state.

It is believed that the 16-year-old shooter was a member of an extremist Telegram channel that disseminates tutorials on killing and manufacturing bombs.

Federal police had ordered Telegram to provide the details on the members of the channel, including names, tax ID numbers, profile photos, credit card information, and bank information. Telegram claimed that it could not comply with the order since the channel in question had already been suspended.

After the government suspended Telegram last Wednesday, its founder and CEO Pavel Durov said the company would appeal the ban, claiming that complying with the federal police order was “technologically impossible” and arguing that the platform’s mission is to protect free speech and privacy.

In his decision revising the ruling, Judge Flavio Lucas said the government’s complete suspension of Telegram was unreasonable as it would broadly impact the “freedom of communication” for thousands of Brazilians who have nothing to do with the “facts under investigation.”

However, Judge Lucas kept in place the fine of 1 million reais a day (around $200,000) the government imposed on Telegram for refusing to turn over the data.

According to the Associated Press, just how much of the ordered data Telegram can supply is unclear. The platform only requires a phone number to create an account and pseudonyms are used often. Starting in December, Telegram will offer the option for users to establish accounts using anonymous phone numbers.

In his decision, Judge Lucas argued that social media companies must “understand that cyberspace cannot be a free territory” that has rules “created and managed” by those who “commercially exploit it.”

Intelligence agencies and security researchers frequently track the Telegram channels of cybercriminals, ransomware gangs, terror groups, and others who incite violence, the Associated Press reported.