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WhatsApp enables messaging during internet shutdowns

Users can now send and receive messages via a proxy service even when their governments block or disrupt access to the internet.

The Meta-owned instant messaging app has launched proxy support for users worldwide. It said the move was “putting the power into people’s hands.”

Proxy support is available with the latest update. Volunteers can set up proxies, and WhatsApp has provided instructions on how to do it. It said it hoped proxy support would help ensure “secure and reliable communication” during internet blackouts.

WhatsApp also said that messages sent via proxy servers would be protected by its end-to-end encryption, which is meant to ensure that personal messages stay between a sender and a receiver.

“Connecting via proxy maintains the high level of privacy and security that WhatsApp provides,” the company said in a blog post.

It said internet shutdowns violate human rights and should “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,” WhatsApp said.

While countries like India, Myanmar, and Ethiopia have used internet blackouts to stifle dissent and prevent protests in recent years, Iran stands out as a frequent offender.

In September, Iran also restricted access to WhatsApp and Instagram following mass protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the hands of the country’s morality police.

The Iranian government said it would permanently block WhatsApp and Instagram if Meta did not respond to its demands to open a representative office in the country and adopt the Islamic State’s morality guidelines.

WhatsApp has over 2 billion users worldwide and is a primary means of communication in many parts of the world.

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