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WhatsApp update helps users bypass government crackdowns

WhatsApp has a new feature that allows users to bypass government-imposed internet shutdowns.

This update allows people to connect to messaging platform via proxy server – an alternative route for those who are blocked from direct access.

Instead of connecting directly to the website or service desired, the user connects through a proxy. This acts as an intermediary between the two parties.

Meta, the WhatsApp owner, stated that it took the decision to shut down internet access in Iran because of protests that have been ongoing for months after the death Mahsa.


After being taken into custody by the country’s morality officers for violating its strict dress code, the 22-year old died in September.

The Iranian regime activated an Internet “kill-switch to cut off access to social media services like Instagram and WhatsApp to stop demonstrations.

Similar shutdowns were also imposed by other authoritarian regimes in the past to address protests in Myanmar. This country has been under military rule from a coup nearly two years ago.

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Internet kill-switch in Iran

How does WhatsApp’s proxy server work?

WhatsApp’s settings will allow you to connect through a proxy server.

Users from affected countries will be able enter the name and address of a server to connect to the internet.

WhatsApp recommends searching social media and search engines for trusted sources that have created proxy accounts.

The company stated in a blog that many proxy servers had been created by volunteers and groups around the world to allow affected people to “communicate freely”. However, it also provided guidance on how users could set up their own.

According to the firm, connecting via proxy will preserve the app’s privacy features and security features. This includes protecting messages using end-to-end encryption.


WhatsApp provides instructions on how to connect to a proxy either for Android or iPhone.

Both cases should be verified that WhatsApp is the latest version.

Android: In the chat tab, tap “more options”, then “settings”, then “storage & data”. On iPhone, you can access that stage by going to WhatsApp’s settings tab.

After you have accessed “storage and Data”, tap “proxy”, then “use proxy”, then “set proxy”, before entering your desired address.

After you tap “save”, a checkmark will indicate if the connection was successful. A failed connection could indicate that the proxy is blocked.

“A meaningful step” to assist those who are ‘facing censorship’

Following Ms. Amini’s passing, NetBlocks conducted research and found that Iran’s government had been imposing an online curfew throughout protests.

It was not only an attempt to cut off communication between Iranians but also to establish contact with the outside world.

Sky News was told by Alp Toker, founder of NetBlocks, that WhatsApp’s announcement was a “meaningful step towards helping Iranians or other people who are subject to censorship”.

He stated that the approach was sound and effectively “decentralizes” the WhatsApp infrastructure most at risk to Iran’s national gateway filtering.

“While the Signal messenger app had previously advocated a similar approach to it, it’s still significant for Meta to follow Signal’s lead by calling for volunteers in order help users access WhatsApp in difficult environments,” he said.

Continue reading:

Protests inside Iran that sent it to the’verge d’ explosion

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Iranians “risk their lives” in protests

Can regimes bypass proxy servers?

Proxy servers are not foolproof for internet shutdowns, according to some.

Sky News spoke to Professor Alan Woodward, a University of Surrey cybersecurity expert, about how regimes could set up proxy servers and carry out “man-in-the middle attacks to intercept messages”.

Iran’s users would want to make sure that their proxy server isn’t malicious.

He said: “Whether the proxy that you connect to runs Meta’s code run ‘volunteer is something I assume it is.”

“And trust is scarce in some parts of the globe.”

To connect to a proxy service, you will need system-level internet access. If your phone doesn’t have internet service, you won’t be able to connect to it.


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