Facebook’s troubles in Brazil seems to be never-ending. The war between the social media giant and the government has been taking on heat for a while as the company-owned messaging service WhatsApp has already been banned a total of four times — including once just a week ago — in the country. But, now the public federal prosecutor has taken an even tough step and froze 38 million reais($11.7 million) of funds held in Facebook’s bank account.
The prosecutor states that the funds have been frozen because the social media giant has been non-cooperative and failed to comply with the court’s plea to provide WhatApp chat logs related to a criminal investigation. But, it has been unable to do so due to the recently introduced 256-bit end-to-end encryption.
The prosecutor’s office further added that funds frozen by the court correspond to fines that Facebook needs to pay for failing to meet legal obligations and comply with orders to hand-over user data to the government.
Facebook Brasil has “shown tremendous disregard for Brazilian institutions”
added the prosecutor assigned to the case.
The court case between the government and Facebook has been long-running now, and it pits them against each other. On one hand, the Brazilian government is insistent on gaining access to communications between criminal suspects while on the other hand, Facebook is arguing that it has introduced end-to-end encryption to value and protect each individual’s privacy. Thus, it supports freedom of communication and cannot dispense the required information — because it doesn’t have access to the same.
A WhatsApp spokesperson has also added that, In recent months, people from all across Brazil have rejected judicial blocks of services like WhatsApp. Indiscriminate steps like these threaten people’s ability to communicate, to run their businesses, and to live their lives. As we’ve said in the past, we cannot share information we don’t have access to.
The court has previously banned the messaging service for whole 72 hours, but the most recent ban had see court instruct the telecom operators to indefinitely block the service from operating. It seems that the court found relief in gulping Facebook’s money in the form of fines, and the ban was lifted just hours after the court order.
The repeated shutdowns have, however, angered the 100 million Brazilian users who use the free messaging service on the daily. During a previous ban, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also urged the Brazilian users to support the new laws implemented in the country, so that there are no bans in the future.