Mark Zuckerberg is an extremely competent CEO when it comes to building an enduring internet company. But he’s less skilled when it comes to navigating the politics of the internet, as evidenced by his statement during Brazil’s unexpected crackdown on WhatsApp.
After WhatsApp failed to comply with a Brazilian court order to hand over user data, a judge ordered domestic telcos to block access to the app. During the shutdown, which has since been lifted, Zuckerberg sent out the following post on Facebook:
Tonight, a Brazilian judge blocked WhatsApp for more than 100 million people who rely on it in her country.
We are working hard to get this block reversed. Until then, Facebook Messenger is still active and you can use it to communicate instead.
This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.
I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.
We hope the Brazilian courts quickly reverse course. If you’re Brazilian, please make your voice heard.
His statement came three months after he attended a conference in Seattle where he mingled with Xi Jinping and other Chinese government officials who oversee the country’s tightly controlled internet. Here he is shaking hands with Lu Wei, commonly known as China’s “internet czar.”