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Brazil lifts its ban on Telegram after two days

Telegram worked quickly over the weekend to comply with the court’s orders, including by deleting classified information shared by the account of President Jair Bolsonaro and removing the accounts of a prominent supporter of Bolsonaro who has been accused of spreading misinformation.

TelegramPavel Durov, founder of the messaging app Telegram, at a tech industry conference in San Francisco, Dec. 2, 2014. Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked Telegram on Friday, March, 20, 2022, and the app responded with measures to fight misinformation, and the court quickly lifted its ban. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, election officials and federal police have been trying to get a response from Telegram, the fast-growing messaging app, for months. It turned out, all they had to do was ban it. On Friday, Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked Telegram in the country because the company behind the app had been ignoring the court’s orders.

Then, suddenly, Telegram’s CEO responded — with a pedestrian excuse: his company had missed the court’s emails. “I apologise to the Brazilian Supreme Court for our negligence,” said the executive, Pavel Durov.

Telegram worked quickly over the weekend to comply with the court’s orders, including by deleting classified information shared by the account of President Jair Bolsonaro and removing the accounts of a prominent supporter of Bolsonaro who has been accused of spreading misinformation.

That action satisfied the court. Late Sunday, the court lifted its ban on Telegram.

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But Telegram also went further in a bid to avoid a ban. The app made several other changes in Brazil to combat misinformation on its app, which has worried Brazilian officials before the presidential election in October. Telegram said that among the changes, it would start promoting verified information in Brazil and marking false posts as inaccurate, while also having employees monitor the 100 most popular channels in Brazil, which account for 95% of the views of public posts in the country.

“The app has always been willing to collaborate with the authorities. What happened was a misunderstanding regarding communication,” said Alan Thomaz, Telegram’s lawyer in Brazil, who was appointed Sunday as part of Telegram’s response to the court.

The court’s reversal was so swift that the ban never took effect. While the court’s order was law for two days, the ban had given internet providers, wireless companies, and Apple and Google five days to comply.

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The ban was instituted and lifted by Alexandre de Moraes, a Supreme Court judge who has emerged as a prominent opponent of Bolsonaro. He is overseeing several investigations into the president and his allies. Bolsonaro criticized the ban, calling it “unacceptable,” and his administration quickly challenged it in court.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

First published on: 21-03-2022 at 09:38:24 am
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