Popular messaging service WhatsApp has said users will be able to access the app via proxy servers meaning they can stay online if the internet is blocked or disrupted. According to Demandsage, Whatsapp has over two billion active users per month.
A proxy server acts as a gateway between yourself and the internet. If you’re using a proxy server, internet traffic flows through the proxy server on its way to the address you requested.
The new initiative was launched early in 2023, with WhatsApp ‘mindful’ that thousands of people were unable to reach their loved ones due to internet restrictions. Whatsapp assured potential proxy users that access will still be secure.
In a blog post, a spokesperson for WhatsApp said: “Connecting via proxy maintains the high level of privacy and security that WhatsApp provides. Your personal messages will still be protected by end-to-end encryption — ensuring they stay between you and the person you’re communicating with and are not visible to anyone in between, not the proxy servers, WhatsApp, or Meta.”
Referencing issues facing people in Iran right now, the spokesperson continued: “Our wish for 2023 is that these internet shutdowns never occur. Disruptions like we’ve seen in Iran for months on end deny people’s human rights and cut people off from receiving urgent help. Though in case these shutdowns continue, we hope this solution helps people wherever there is a need for secure and reliable communication.”
The instant messaging application hopes to achieve this feat through the help of volunteers from all over the world. If you wish to help and set up a proxy yourself, you can learn how on the WhatsApp website.
Juras Juršėnas, from proxy and online data collection company Oxylabs, told BBC News: "For people with government restrictions on internet access, such as was the case with Iran, usage of a proxy server can let people retain connection to WhatsApp and the rest of the free, uncensored internet. It will allow people around the world to stay connected even if their internet access is blocked by some malicious actors."