The Supreme Federal Court in Brazil plans to ban the use of VPN services to overcome possible Telegram blocks.
The decision from Minister Alexandre de Moraes comes after the app criticized the state of democracy in Brazil in a public message, warning users against the so-called fake news law.
That’s especially worrying as Brazilian authorities are infamous for blocking Telegram. At the end of April, a temporary ban quickly induced a spike of Telegram VPN interest across the region as users were looking for ways to keep accessing the platform.
Brazil curbs on ‘technological subterfuges’
“Individuals and legal entities that engage in conduct in the sense of using technological subterfuges for the continuity of communications occurring through TELEGRAM, in the event of suspension, will be subject to civil and criminal sanctions, pursuant to the law, in addition to hourly fine of BRL 100,000.00,” Moraes’ provision (opens in new tab) said.
Despite not explicitly mentioning the word virtual private network (VPN) or proxy software, it looks clear what tech subterfuges stand for.
These security tools are used, in fact, to spoof users’ IP address location so that they can bypass geo-restrictions on online content—whether this is a foreign Netflix series or, as in this case, a censored site and/or app.
Even worse, those found guilty of using a secure VPN or other circumvention tool to access the popular encrypted app, they would be subjected to a fine of roughly $20 thousand per hour.
In Brazil, dictator Alexandre de Moraes banned Telegram and imposed a USD 20,000 fine to those who teach users on how to manage VPN.After this decision of justice Moraes, Brazil is now matching Cuba, North Korea and China as one of the most restrictive dictatorships on Earth.March 19, 2022
Plans to criminalize the use of VPN services comes as the Brazilian Supreme Court has accused Telegram of spreading disinformation around its Bill 2630, also known as the Fake News Bill or Censorship Bill.
Telegram sent a message to all its users on May 9, which described how the “democracy is under attack in Brazil” branding the law as “one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever considered in Brazil” able to “end free speech”—France 24 reported (opens in new tab).
Moares requested the encrypted app to both delete the message and published a retraction for spreading disinformation, otherwise facing a fine of BRL 500 thousand per hour (over $100 thousand) for noncompliance.
It isn’t the first time Telegram has encountered Brazil’s online censorship muzzle. On April 26, the social media platform was banned for failing to hand over data of neo-Nazi chats for then being restored three days later.