WhatsApp announced this(Opens in a new window) the introduction of proxy support, allowing users to continue using the service even when their connection has been blocked or dropped by actors such as authoritarian governments.
A proxy effectively acts as a middleman, passing data between the user and WhatsApp. The move comes after the Iranian regime blocked access to the popular messaging app to stop organizing protests against Masha Amini(Opens in a new window)the 22-year-old woman who died after being arrested by the country’s vice squad.
In a blog post, WhatsApp referenced Iran’s state internet shutdowns and said it hoped the proxy “would help people wherever there is a need for secure and reliable communications.”
WhatsApp said the proxy servers are being set up by volunteers and organizations “dedicated to helping people communicate freely.” If you are interested in setting up a proxy server, you can view the necessary steps here(Opens in a new window).
Users can find proxy servers by searching social media or search engines for “trustworthy sources” that have created a proxy, WhatsApp added. Once found, users must enter the name of the server in the app.
The messaging app emphasized that users connected to a proxy still benefit from messages being end-to-end encrypted, meaning that neither WhatsApp, its owner Meta, nor proxy server owners can read sent messages .
WhatsApp users can enable the proxy by going to the settings menu of the latest version of the app. Instructions for Android and iOS users are slightly different; Instructions can be found here(Opens in a new window).
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A WhatsApp spokesman said:(Opens in a new window) Ars Technica that it “had started to set [proxy] integrated into the app in the last few months of last year” and that it “consults regularly with human rights organizations on issues of freedom of expression and privacy,” adding that it did so during the development of the proxy feature.
According to independent VPN review site Top10VPN(Opens in a new window)Social media blocks in 23 countries totaled 26,865 hours last year, and 710 million people around the world were affected by social media shutdowns last year.
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