Messaging service WhatsApp has added support for a tool that will help users stay online when governments block the internet.
The company, owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, recently announced that it will allow users to connect via WhatsApp proxy servers.
A proxy acts as a bridge to connect users to the Internet through servers in other locations. Proxy servers can be set up by individuals or organizations around the world. A proxy system can allow people to get online even when governments restrict or cut off internet services in their areas.
In its announcement, WhatsApp said the proxy tool represents an effort to “put the power in the hands of people” to connect to its service when the internet is shut down or restricted.
The company has announced that proxy support has been launched for WhatsApp users worldwide. However, in its statement, WhatsApp cited Iran as a country where the government has been blocking the internet for months. Such actions “deny people their human rights and deprive people of access to emergency care,” WhatsApp said.
The Iranian government has a history of cutting off internet and messaging services.
In 2018, Iranian officials ordered internet providers to block the Telegram messaging service. At that time, there were about 40 million Telegram users in Iran, which was about half of the country’s population.
The ban on Telegram came at a time when large-scale demonstrations were held in many Iranian cities in protest against the government’s economic policies.
In recent months, Iran has held large-scale demonstrations in Kurdistan of this country province and in big cities. The protests started after the death of a 22-year-old woman who died while in police custody. A woman named Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s “morality police”.
The morality police enforce Iran’s restrictions on behavior and dress in public. Amini was arrested for violating the country’s Islamic dress code.
Iran has blocked WhatsApp as well as Instagram, owned by Meta, due to unrest during protests over Amin’s death.
The company said that using a proxy server would not change the “high level of privacy and security provided by WhatsApp”. For example, all private messages sent over the service will still be protected by end-to-end encryption, he said. Encryption is a process that converts information or data into a form code to hide information.
WhatsApp provides step-by-step instructions for users who want to use a proxy server. The company has also developed a guide for volunteers and organizations who want to set up a proxy server for users.
In countries facing government interference, some users use virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect to the Internet. A VPN uses software to connect to private computer networks in other areas to make it appear that the device or computer is operating in another country.
There are some similarities between VPN and proxy servers. But one difference is that in addition to hiding where users are working, VPNs also encrypt the user’s internet data.
In September, WhatsApp rival Signal announced that it was offering proxy server support so that users in Iran could use the service.
The United Nations Human Rights Office said in a report released in June that it documented 931 internet shutdowns in 74 countries between 2016 and 2021. it gets worse human rights situation,” the report says.
The UN has also noted that internet blockages have huge economic costs in many industries. The economic damage caused by the shutdowns, the report says, “is felt over a long period of time. intensifies pre-existing social and economic inequalities”.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA English, based on reports from WhatsApp and Reuters.
Words in this Story
proxy – n. one thing replaced another
province – n. some countries are divided into large areas by the type of government they have
code – n. a set of letters, numbers, or symbols used instead of ordinary words to keep a message secret
get worse – v. get worse
to aggravate – v. make something worse
What do you think about this story? We want to hear from you. We have a new comment system. How it works:
- Write your comment in the box.
- Below the box you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
- Click on an image and a box appears. Enter a login for your social media account. Or you can create one in the Disqus system. It’s a blue circle with a “D” on it. It’s free.
Every time you return to the Learning English site to post a comment, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Here is our comment policy here.