WhatsApp seems to be starting the year right with a focus on aiding those living under restrictive regimes to stay connected during internet shutdowns. With this goal in mind, the messaging app has launched a new feature that allows users to connect to its service via a proxy in cases where access to its servers has been cut off.
According to the company, users can now connect to the app using a proxy server run by a network of volunteers and organisations when it is not possible to connect directly to WhatsApp. This feature works on both iOS and Android and can be found in the app’s Storage and Data settings.
Once you tap on Use Proxy, you will then have to manually enter the proxy address in order to connect to one and a green check mark will appear if the connection is successful. Do note that the third-party servers are not being handled by WhatsApp, so you will have to find the address of any running proxy on your own either through your friends or by searching through the internet.
WhatsApp assured that despite going through these proxies, the messages sent through the platform will remain secure through end-to-end encryption. That being said, the Meta subsidiary also put a disclaimer in its FAQ that your IP address will be shared with the proxy provider since they are third-party servers.
The reason behind this development seems to have been sparked by the internet shutdown in Iran last year amidst human rights protests where it was found that the government had disrupted access to Instagram and WhatsApp across several parts of the country. “Disruptions like we’ve seen in Iran for months on end deny people’s human rights and cut people off from receiving urgent help,” said the messaging app.
If you or your organisation want to voluntarily host a WhatsApp proxy server, you can set it up by having ports 80, 443, or 5222 available as well as a domain or subdomain name that points to the server’s IP address. For more details, you can check out the source code and other documentation on GitHub.
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