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UPDATE 1-Facebook gets Brazil fine over WhatsApp data cut to $6 mln

Gabriela Mello

(Adds Facebook's comments on the appeals court decision)

SAO PAULO, June 25 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's fine for withholding WhatsApp messages from a drug-trafficking investigation in Brazil should be reduced to 23 million reais ($6 million), a Brazilian federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The decision overturned a fine of around 2.035 billion reais ($528 million) imposed in June 2017, deemed disproportionate by the federal appeals court in a trial on Wednesday.

In a statement to Reuters, a WhatsApp representative welcomed the appeals court decision: "We appreciate that the court recognized the value and legality of end-to-end encryption in Brazil. This is an important law that will help ensure the right of all citizens to remain online and safe."

The world's largest social network has struggled with legal troubles in Brazil in recent years.

In 2016, a senior Facebook executive was kept in a Brazilian jail for nearly 24 hours in what the company considered "an extreme and disproportionate measure" resulting from a dispute over a court's demand to provide data from its WhatsApp service.

The messaging app also became the frontline in Brazil's bitter presidential race last year, after newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that supporters of far-right candidate and eventual victor Jair Bolsonaro had funded mass messaging attacks against leftist rival Fernando Haddad.

($1 = 3.8550 reais) (Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)