WhatsApp is facing a nationwide ban in Brazil, after the instant messaging service allegedly failed to cooperate with an investigation into indecent images of children on the app.
A judge has ruled that the popular app should be suspended, following concerns that “sexually graphic photos of children” had been circulating between some users.
Judge Luiz de Moura Correira hopes the ruling will compel the communications company to help police with their enquiries. According to local media, he only resorted to the ban because of the severity of the crimes, which date back to 2013.
Lawyers for WhatsApp allegedly claimed the service does not have to comply with Brazilian law because it does not have offices there.
At present, the app – which was purchased by Facebook for $19bn (£12.3bn) last year – is operating as normal while an appeal takes place.
The order to shut down the service has been passed on to mobile phone operators, which have been angered by the move.
SindiTelebrasil, the organisation that represents the industry, has warned the suspension would cause “huge losses to millions of everyday Brazilians, including at work” – and claimed the judge’s ruling was “extreme and disproportionate”.
According to market research, 56% of smartphone users in Brazil use WhatsApp on a regular basis.