WhatsApp users can now stay connected even when the internet is shut down thanks to the new update.
The messaging app has offered free proxy support directly within its platform for all users that can be used as an alternative way to send and receive messages when direct access to the app is blocked.
WhatsApp says the launch will help people living in countries like Iran “who are still denied the ability to reach their loved ones due to the internet shutdown”.
Citizens who live with restricted internet freedoms are accustomed to resorting to VPN services to bypass blocks. However, this move from a large company like WhatsApp could set a precedent in the fight for a truly open web.
The Meta-owned provider is now urging anyone with the right skills to volunteer to set up new proxy servers and help people communicate freely.
We continue to fight for your right to communicate freely and confidentially. Now, when you can’t connect to WhatsApp directly, you can stay connected around the world with a server set up by volunteers and organizations dedicated to helping others communicate freely.January 5, 2023
The company added: “WhatsApp exists to connect the world privately and we hope this solution will help users around the world when internet shutdowns stand in the way of their ability to communicate securely with their loved ones.”
“We put the power in your hands,” WhatsApp tweeted in Farsi as part of the thread introducing the new feature, with Iran’s crackdown on social media to silence dissent an important motivation behind the update.
Authorities have cut off access to popular platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook since September, when a wave of protests erupted in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini across the country.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Cutting off the internet has become a common practice on the hands of governments in times of protests, conflicts, and even elections. From Myanmar, Russia and Kazakhstan: There were more than 50 cases in 16 countries last year.
Such a power outage has serious consequences for netizens. It undermines people’s civil liberties, while allowing governments to hide human rights abuses. Rather, they are exacerbating the social inequalities that impede people’s access to online services, costing countries’ economies billions down the road.
A proxy server acts as a gateway between your device and the website or service you want to access.
This means that when connected to a WhatsApp proxy, all requests to send and receive messages will go through that server first while circumventing the “kill switch” imposed by the government in an effort to disable normal internet access.
WhatsApp confirms that using a proxy will not affect the usual level of security and privacy in place. End-to-end encryption will still protect all users’ messages and calls.
“Our wish in 2023 is for these internet shutdowns to never happen. Unrest like the one we have seen in Iran for months on end deprives people of their human rights and cuts them off from urgent help.
“While these lockdowns continue, we hope this solution will help people wherever there is a need for secure and reliable connectivity.”
How to use WhatsApp proxy servers
WhatsApp recommends that you search social media or search engines for trusted sources that have created a proxy. It also begs whoever sets up such secure servers to share those addresses directly with people struggling to access the app when possible.
To connect to one of the WhatsApp proxy servers, you must first make sure that your device is running the latest version of the app. Then, follow the detailed guide below:
- head on settings tab;
- Click Storage and datathen on agent;
- tap on Use a proxy and then Appointment of the agent;
- Enter the proxy address You like to call and click Memorizes.
A green checkmark will appear if the connection is successful. If you still cannot send or receive messages, try using a different proxy as the specified server may be blocked.
These proxy addresses have been created by volunteers and organizations committed to helping people living with limited Internet freedom access the Internet without restrictions.
This means that everyone with the necessary skills can do their part in combating internet outages around the world.
“To help people reconnect to WhatsApp, you can set up a proxy using a server with ports 80, 443, or 5222 available and a domain name (or subdomain) pointing to the server’s IP address,” the provider wrote in a blog post. (Opens in a new tab).
More details on the documentation and source code are available on GitHub (Opens in a new tab) for anyone to review.