Meta’s subsidiary Whatsapp is making provisions for people who do not have access to the instant messaging app. The move will be effective in areas afflicted by internet shutdowns.
- Whatsapp will roll out a proxy server for users worldwide to connect to the app through servers installed by organizations and volunteers.
- The server will provide a safe space for users operating in such areas, and the messages will be protected by end-to-end encryption.
- It will help war-stricken regions like Iran, where WhatsApp and Instagram are currently blocked.
In the wake of the ongoing protest initiated by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, Iran blocked its access to the messaging app. The morality police arrested Amini in Tehran for donning “unsuitable attire,” which led to her unfortunate demise.
However, Iran is not the only country disowning Whatsapp. It is also banned in North Korea, China, and Qatar. To know how to set up a proxy, users can follow the guide in Whatsapp Help Center.
WhatsApp “will do anything” to provide services to users worldwide
Whatsapp, on Thursday, announced that the app’s proxy support will be accessible to users with the latest version. They can use proxy servers to use the app in countries and regions where it is banned.
A proxy server links a user to web services and provides a filter against restrictions and censorship. Netizens in countries like Iran and Syria use virtual private network (VPN) services to bypass internet censorship.
According to Whatsapp, “in case these shutdowns continue, we hope this solution helps people wherever there is a need for secure and reliable communication.”
WhatsApp has resolved to do everything in its power to keep the app accessible everywhere and back in September 2022; the app claimed it wasn’t blocking Iranian numbers from using its services.
It released a statement to extend its support to deprived regions. It intends to restore “the power into people’s hands to maintain access to WhatsApp if their connection is blocked or disrupted.”
After that, they referred users to the instructions for setting up a proxy server to rebuild the connection. The service was launched to help such countries where internet lockdowns have become normalized.
These impositions that have also made WhatsApp inaccessible negatively affected the lives of citizens. During the announcement, Whatsapp also cited Iran as an example of places where the government has shunned internet services.
“Disruptions like we’ve seen in Iran for months on end, deny people’s human rights and cut people off from receiving urgent help,” it shared. After the ban, there was a reported “nation-scale loss of connectivity” on network providers in the country.
In such dire circumstances, WhatsApp’s new feature will let ordinary Iranians evade these shutdowns and use the app’s services. The CEO of the company, Will Cathcart, tweeted the availability of proxy servers for anyone who wants to use the app.
How to connect and set up proxy servers on Whatsapp?
Whatsapp’s FAQ page has a section dedicated to proxy installation. Organizations or users must use a server with ports 80, 443, or 5222 available and a domain name (or subdomain) that points to the server’s IP address.
More details, along with the source code, can be accessed on GitHub. The service is currently available for iPhone as well as Android. The step-by-step instructions are mentioned here.
In addition, Whatsapp has also recommended keeping the information private. These proxy server addresses need to be shared solely with users who cannot, under normal circumstances, connect directly to the app. This is for the security of the proxy server too.
However, proxy users don’t have full access to the services provided by the app. The GitHub repository now allows users to set up their own proxy infrastructure and use WhatsApp for chats only. Voice communication and media downloads are not yet available.
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