Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) Justice Alexandre De Moraes Friday ordered the smart telephone application Telegram banned nationwide, claiming it did not help authorities fight the so-called spread of fake news.
Telegram is a freeware, instant-messaging platform very similar to Whatsapp, where users can also have censorship-free channels to express their personal views on any issue. The main operational center is based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Telegram was launched in 2013 by the brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, of Russian descent, who were forced to leave their country.
De Moraes also said the platform failed to heed court orders on several occasions and therefore determined the complete and integral suspension of Telegram's operation in Brazil. The popular platform is installed on 53% of the country's cell phones, according to the Superior Electoral Court.
The warrant, issued on a precautionary basis, is a response to Telegram's reluctance to comply with numerous subpoenas from a probe into the alleged mass dissemination of fake news in Brazil, which De Moraes himself is conducting.
Telegram had become President Jair Bolsonaro's main channel to communicate with far-right groups that support him after the content of their messaging was blocked on other platforms for being either untrue or offensive.
The Telegram app is notoriously known for its stance of not cooperating with judicial and police authorities of various countries and goes so far as to use that attitude as an advantage in relation to other communication systems, De Moraes said.
He added that, because of this refusal to cooperate with the judicial authorities, Telegram operates in a free terrain for the proliferation of various contents, even with repercussions in the criminal area.
De Moraes also stressed that the Brazilian Federal Police had tried numerous times to establish contact with Telegram representatives in the country, but never got a response.
The Telegram platform, in all those opportunities, stopped attending the judicial command, in total disregard for the Brazilian Justice, he went on.
The Judge's decision is also a response to a request from the Federal Police, it was explained.
De Moraes ordered the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) to immediately adopt all the necessary measures to make the measure effective.
He also asked Apple and Google in Brazil and internet providers to adopt, within five days, mechanisms to render Telegram unusable in the country.
Among the warrants Telegram allegedly failed to abide by was the one banning content from Bolsonarist US-based blogger Allan dos Santos, who is under investigation for spreading misinformation. Telegram is also said to have been uncooperative in cases of sexual abuse of minors and child pornography.
De Moraes also underlined Telegram had failed to take a pledge to fight misinformation in the face of the October presidential elections, which Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and Kwai have agreed to do.