Brazilian Supreme Court judge bans Telegram messaging service ahead of elections later this year

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has ordered the shutdown of popular messaging application Telegram in the country, effectively banning one of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro‘s favourite communication channels ahead of elections later this year.

Judge Alexandre de Moraes ordered the app blocked immediately across the South American nation, citing Telegram’s failure to comply with orders from Brazilian authorities and remove messages found to contain disinformation.

The decision comes as Bolsonaro gears up to seek re-election in October, counting on Telegram to rally his base amid slumping public support and criticism over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. The president has more than 1 million followers on the platform.

“Telegram’s disrespect for Brazilian law and repeated failure to comply with countless court decisions … is completely incompatible with the rule of law,” Moraes wrote in his decision.

The judge said the company had repeatedly refused to comply with rulings and requests from police, the Superior Electoral Tribunal and the Supreme Court itself.

That includes a Supreme Court-ordered investigation into allegations that the Bolsonaro administration had used official communication channels to spread disinformation, he said.

Bolsonaro has openly clashed with Moraes, who ordered him personally investigated in that case.

Moraes also ordered Apple and Google to help block users on their platforms from being able to use Telegram in Brazil.