RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, election officials and federal police have been trying for months to respond to the rapidly evolving messaging application, the Telegram. It turned out, they just wanted to ban it.
On Friday, Brazil’s Supreme Court blocked Telegram in the country because the company behind the application was disobeying court orders.
Then, all of a sudden, the chief executive of Telegram replied – with the excuse of a pedestrian: his company missed the court email. “I apologize to the Brazilian Supreme Court for our negligence,” said Pavel Durov, an executive.
The Telegram worked swiftly to comply with court orders over the weekend, including deleting classified information shared by President Jair Bolsonaro’s account and removing the accounts of Mr’s leading supporter. Bolsonaro who is accused of spreading false information.
The court was satisfied with the proceedings. Late Sunday night, the court lifted the ban on the telegram.
But Telegram also stepped in to avoid the ban. The app has made several other changes in Brazil to combat misinformation on its application, which has worried Brazilian officials ahead of the presidential election in October. Telegram said that among the changes, it would start promoting verified information in Brazil and mark inaccurate posts as inaccurate, while employees would monitor the 100 most popular channels in Brazil, which account for 95 percent of public post views in the country.
“The app is always ready to cooperate with the authorities. What happened was a misunderstanding of the communication, “said Alan Thomas, a lawyer for the Telegram in Brazil, who was appointed to the court on Sunday as part of a telegram response.
The court’s reversal was so rapid that the ban was never enforced. While the court order was law for two days, the ban gave internet providers, wireless companies and Apple and Google five days to comply.
The ban was set up and lifted by Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who emerged as Mr’s leading opponent. Bolsonaro. He is overseeing several investigations into the president and his allies. Mr. Bolsonaro criticized the ban, calling it “unacceptable” and his administration quickly challenged it in court.
Telegram has long maintained a hands-off approach to content on its apps, making it popular among right-wing users who complain that their opinions are being censored on more mainstream social networks. This means that Telegram has become an important broadcasting channel for Mr. Bolsonaro, who has amassed about 1.1 million followers on the app. His top rival in the 2020 presidential race, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is less than 50,000.
Brazil is an important market for telegrams, and losing access to the country would be a big blow for a company that is growing in popularity. Since 2014, Telegram has been downloaded about 85 million times in Brazil, of which 29 percent of the installations came last year, according to Sensor Tower, an app data firm.