WhatsApp update helps users bypass government-imposed internet shutdowns | Science and Technology News

WhatsApp is rolling out a new feature designed to help users bypass government-imposed internet shutdowns.

The update allows people to join messaging platform through proxy servers – an alternative way for those whose direct access is blocked.

Instead of connecting directly to any website or service, the user basically connects to a proxy that acts as an intermediary for the information passed between them.

Meta, the owner of “WhatsApp”, said that he made this decision in response to the interruption of the Internet in countries such as Iran. Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old died in September after being detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strict dress code.

Since then, The Iranian regime has activated the internet “kill-switch”.blocked access to services including Instagram and WhatsApp to limit the organization of demonstrations.

Other authoritarian regimes have imposed similar shutdowns in the past. Like fighting the protests in Myanmarwhich is under military rule since the coup nearly two years ago.

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Internet “kill key” in Iran

How will WhatsApp work through a proxy server?

The option to connect through a proxy server will be in the settings of WhatsApp.

Users in affected countries will be able to enter the server name and use it to connect to the internet.

WhatsApp suggests searching social media or search engines for trusted sources that have created a proxy.

In a blog post, the company said that many proxies have been created by volunteers and groups around the world to help affected people “communicate freely,” while also providing guidance on how users can set themselves up.

The firm said that connecting through a proxy will protect the app’s privacy and security features, including the protection of messages through end-to-end encryption.


WhatsApp has released instructions on how to connect to a proxy on iPhone or Android.

In both cases, users should make sure that they are using the latest version of WhatsApp.

On Android, under the chats tab, tap “more options,” “settings,” and then “storage and data.” To get to that stage on iPhone, go directly to WhatsApp’s settings tab.

Before entering the desired address, tap “proxy”, “use proxy”, “set proxy” in the “storage and data” section.

After tapping Save, a check mark will show whether the connection was successful – a failed connection may indicate that the proxy has been blocked.

‘Meaningful step’ to help those facing censorship

After Ms. Ami’s death, investigations by Internet monitor NetBlocks found that the Iranian government routinely imposed online curfews during protests.

It was an attempt not only to cut off communication between Iranians, but also with the outside world.

Alp Toker, founder of NetBlocks, told Sky News that WhatsApp’s announcement was “a meaningful step to help Iranians and other people facing censorship”.

He said: “The approach is sound and it effectively ‘decentralizes’ the part of WhatsApp’s infrastructure that is most vulnerable to filtering on Iran’s national gateway.”

“While Signal messenger previously supported a similar approach, it’s still important for a large company like Meta to follow Signal’s lead and call for volunteers to help users access WhatsApp in difficult environments,” he said.

Read more:
Internal protests that brought Iran to the “explosion point”.

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Iranians “risk their lives” in protests

Can mods go through proxies?

Some have suggested that proxy servers do not offer a foolproof solution to internet throttling.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, told Sky News that regimes could theoretically set up proxy servers and implement “man-in-the-middle eavesdropping on messages”.

Users in a country like Iran want to be sure that the proxy server they are connecting to is not malicious.

He added: “The fact that the proxy you’re connecting to is running ‘volunteer’ controlled Meta code is something you should trust, I guess.”

“And trust is low in certain parts of the world.”

Connecting to a proxy server also requires system-level access to the internet – if you don’t have any service on your phone, you can’t connect to a proxy server.

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