The proxy server function enables users to still utilize the service even when their connection has been impeded or disrupted by entities such as authoritarian governments.
WhatsApp has announced the release of proxy support, which allows users to continue using the service even when their connection has been blocked or disrupted by entities such as authoritarian governments.
A proxy acts as a intermediary that transmits data between the user and WhatsApp. This move comes after the Iranian government cut off access to the popular messaging app in an attempt to prevent the organization of protests related to the death of Masha Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the country’s morality police.
In a blog post, WhatsApp mentioned the government internet shutdowns in Iran and expressed its hope that the proxy would “assist people in any situation where secure and reliable communication is necessary.
WhatsApp stated that the proxy servers are established by volunteers and organizations that are “committed to enabling people to communicate freely.” Any individual interested in setting up a proxy server can find the necessary steps to do so here.
According to WhatsApp, users can locate proxy servers by searching social media or search engines for “trusted sources” that have created a proxy. Once found, users must input the name of the server on the app.
The messaging app emphasized that users connected to a proxy will still have the benefit of end-to-end encrypted messages, which means that neither WhatsApp, its owner Meta, nor proxy-server owners can read the messages being sent.
Users can enable the proxy feature on WhatsApp by visiting the settings menu on the latest version of the app. The instructions for Android and iOS users differ slightly and can be found here.
A spokesperson for WhatsApp told Ars Technica that the company had “begun incorporating [proxy] capability into the app over the last few months of last year” and that it “regularly consults” with human rights organizations on “freedom of expression and privacy issues,” including during the development of the proxy feature.
According to the independent VPN review site Top10VPN, social media blocks in 23 countries last year totaled 26,865 hours, and 710 million people across the world were affected by social media shutdowns last year.