A Sao Paulo judge has ordered that Brazil will lose access to social media platform WhatsApp for 48 hours, starting at 9pm EST. But that’s only the beginning.
Over 90% of Brazil’s online population are WhatsApp users, surpassing even sites like Facebook and YouTube by a wide margin. The shutdown comes primarily at the behest of Brazilian telecommunications companies, indignant that some of the most expensive mobile rates in the world are being undercut by a free multi-platform messenger.
In addition, legislation has been introduced that would not only give the government free reign to spy on its citizens, but would actually criminalize uses of social media. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a populace quickly losing faith in a government rife with scandal.
The proposed restrictions under PL 215/15 — disparagingly known as “Big Spy” by its detractors — would require citizens of Brazil to input their home address, phone number, and even their Tax ID in order to access any internet service or application. Companies would also have to keep this information on file for up to three years, in order for the government to be able to access the data.
It would also allow virtually free-form censorship by politicians, allowing them to demand that any content they found offensive to their image be completely removed from the web. In the face of widespread discontent regarding the rampant corruption in Brazil’s halls of power, it’s not difficult to see why politicians would rather silence the voices raised against them.
Big Spy has already gotten the predictable approval of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, and now it’s headed for a vote that will lead it to President Dilma’s desk. It’s a “sad day for Brazil” according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. A sad day indeed, as the “Social Media Capital of the Universe” moves steadily toward a future in which online socializing is a criminal offense.
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