WhatsApp's New Proxy Support Can Help People Chat When Access Is Blocked

Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
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Mike Sorrentino
2 min read
A hand holding an iPhone 13 with a large WhatsApp logo on the screen

WhatsApp logo on iPhone.

James Martin/CNET

What's happening

WhatsApp adds proxy support for people to access the chat service in countries where it's blocked.

Why it matters

WhatsApp has over 2 billion active users worldwide, and is an essential communication tool in many countries. Adding proxy support allows a way for users to get around geographic restrictions in countries that choose to block the service.

WhatsApp on Thursday announced the launch of proxy server support, meant to help connect people to WhatsApp in countries where access is currently blocked -- with Iran in particular getting a mention by WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart.

"While many of us celebrated [the new year] by texting our loved ones on WhatsApp, there are millions of people in Iran and elsewhere who continue to be denied the right to communicate freely and privately," Cathcart said on Twitter.

Screenshot of tweet from WhatsApp's Will Cathcart
Twitter/Screenshot by Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Iran blocked access to Meta's WhatsApp and Instagram in September following protests that erupted from the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. A WhatsApp blog post explains that the new proxy feature will allow people who cannot directly connect to the chat app to instead connect to a server set up by a volunteer or an organization. Access to these proxy servers can be provided on social media, search engines or other private means, and WhatsApp's blog post links to instructions on how to connect to such servers using the app's settings menu.

Instructions are also available for anyone hoping to set up a WhatsApp proxy server for others to connect to the service through. WhatsApp's post says that messages sent using a proxy server maintain end-to-end encryption, meaning texts should not be visible to the proxy server or to WhatsApp.

While proxy servers were already available to connect to through a phone's settings menu, the new feature should allow for people to set WhatsApp to connect to a specific server for the chat app. Other chat apps like Signal also offer proxy server support for people who need it to access the texting service.

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