Judge Alexandre de Moraes ordered the app to be stopped immediately across the South American nation in a ruling issued on Friday, citing Telegram’s refusal to comply with instructions from Brazilian authorities and erase communications containing disinformation.
Bolsonaro’s move comes as he prepares to run for re-election in October, relying on Telegram to bolster his support amid dwindling public support and criticism over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. On the platform, the president has over a million followers.
“Telegram’s disrespect for Brazilian law and repeated failure to comply with countless court decision 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.
The president took to Twitter on Friday, posting a link to subscribe to his channel on Telegram, which was still operational in Brazil in the afternoon.
“Our Telegram informs people every day of many important actions of national interest, which many regrettably omit,” Bolsonaro said. “Welcome, and share the truth.”
Meanwhile, the judge gave Wilson Diniz Wellisch, the head of telecoms regulator Anatel, 24 hours to implement the suspension, which would stand until Telegram complies with outstanding judicial orders, pays a series of fines, and presents a country representative before the court.
Moraes also ordered Apple and Google to help block users on their platforms from being able to use Telegram in Brazil; both tech giants declined to comment.
Anatel said it had “forwarded the judicial decision to the entities operating in the regulated sector”.
Telegram, which has proved popular with far-right groups worldwide, did not respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency. Brazil’s federal police also declined to comment.