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Brazil suspends Telegram for refusing to give data for antisemitic group probe

Court also fines messaging app for failing to assist investigation into neo-Nazi activity on social networks related to violence in schools

The icon for the instant messaging Telegram app is seen on a smartphone, Feb. 28, 2023, in Marple Township, Pennsylvania (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: Social Messaging app Telegram said on Thursday it will appeal a fine and suspension imposed by a Brazilian court after its parent company failed to provide data sought by authorities on neo-Nazis operating on the network.

The court fined Telegram a million reais (about $198,000) per day and ordered the temporary suspension of its activities for failing to assist a probe into neo-Nazi activity on social networks related to violence in schools.

The app’s executive director, Pavel Durov, vowed to “stand up for our users in Brazil and their right to private communication.”

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He insisted that the data sought was “technologically impossible for us to obtain.”

“We are appealing the decision and are looking forward to the final resolution,” he added.

On Thursday, Brazilian users complained of instability in the app and shared advice on how to circumvent the blockage.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said on Wednesday that groups with antisemitic names were “acting in those networks, and we know that this is at the core of violence against our children,” he added, in reference to a recent spate of attacks in schools.

Earlier this month, a man carrying a hatchet killed four children between the ages of four and seven at their school in the same week as two other, non-fatal school attacks.

Last month, a 13-year-old boy killed a teacher in a knife attack at a school in Sao Paulo.

And last November, a 16-year-old shooter wearing a swastika killed four people and injured more than 10 others in twin attacks on two schools in Aracruz, in the southeastern state of Espirito Santo.

The G1 news portal, citing police sources, reported the teenager had allegedly interacted with antisemitic groups on Telegram.

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According to a document from the federal justice authority in Espirito Santo, investigators had asked Telegram for the personal data of members of two stated antisemitic groups on the platform.

The company handed over only data on the administrator of one of the groups, said the document, adding there was “intent by Telegram not to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.”

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