WhatsApp will allow users to connect to the messaging app via proxy servers for the first time to allow users to stay online even when an internet shutdown or block is in place.
The Meta-owned site said it had taken the decision in response to internet shutdowns seen in countries such as Iran in recent months, which the company said “deny people’s human rights and cut people off from receiving urgent help”.
A new feature within WhatsApp’s settings will allow users to enter the name of a proxy server and use it to connect to the internet.
Proxy servers work as alternative gateways between a user and the internet when traditional connection methods and servers have been shut down or cut off – providing the necessary connection between a user and the website or service they wish to access.
WhatsApp noted that many have been set up by volunteers and organisations around the world to help people “communicate freely”, and the company will also offer guidance to people on how to set up a proxy in order to help others.
“Connecting via proxy maintains the same high level of privacy and security that WhatsApp provides,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.
“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.
“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.”