WhatsApp launches proxy tool to combat Internet censorship

The company said it started bringing proxy usage to WhatsApp in the last few months of 2022 and will roll it out now because most people are using a version of the app that can support proxies. In its blog post, the company said internet disruptions, like in Iran, “deny people’s human rights and keep people from getting emergency help.”

To connect to a WhatsApp proxy, people need detailed information about the proxy. They can usually be found when the proxy is running by searching on social media. (Proxy is not effective when completely shutting down the internet when there is no connection). Proxy details can be entered into WhatsApp’s iOS and Android apps through the Storage and Data menu, found in the app’s settings. WhatsApp says those who want to set up a proxy server can use ports 80, 443 or 5222 and a domain or subdomain that points to the server’s IP address—it has published detailed documentation about GitHub page.

As the number of internet outages and disruptions has increased in recent years, so have the censorship bypass tools available. Most popular, Tor . anonymous service and VPN used to bypass censorship, block or filter government apps and websites. However, new tools are also emerging: Samizdat online allow Russians to access blocked news websites without any technical knowledge, and Browser CENO built on peer-to-peer sharing technology, which organizations speak reduce dependence on international networks.

Ksenia Ermoshina, CENO user experience researcher and CNRS Center for Internet and Society researcher and Citizen Lab, said CENO was widely used during Iran’s shutdown and restrictions. WhatsApp’s proxy introduction can also help people communicate when the app is blocked. Ermoshina said that proxies helped keep telegram online in Russia in 2018 when country tried to block messaging app unsuccessfully.

However, there are some limitations to proxies, Ermoshina said. “They can slow down your traffic significantly, such as on calls or file sharing.” Connections through the proxy can also be blocked if the authorities discover their details. “VPNs and proxies are part of a cat-and-mouse tool,” says Ermosina. Their developers are always trying to evade censorship. The more people running proxy servers, the harder it is for the government to take them all down.

For those looking to avoid censorship, it is likely that a combination of anti-censorship tools will be helpful. People should research the tools they plan to use in the event of a future outage, if possible, and consider any possible risks to them. “Different users will have different needs, threat models, and technical skills, so one tool won’t fit all,” says Access Now’s Krapiva. “However, I hope that Meta will make sure that they provide guidance to users on what proxy servers can and cannot do, as well as how to use them safely, as those who can The capabilities that will need this feature the most will also tend to be at the highest risk.”


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