WhatsApp is adding support for connecting to the messaging service via proxy, WhatsApp owner Meta announced today. It’s a move that WhatsApp hopes will allow users to continue to stay connected, even if the service is blocked by governments. Connecting via proxy won’t impact WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, the company says, and the content of messages won’t be visible to the proxy service.
“We’re putting the power into people’s hands to maintain access to WhatsApp if their connection is blocked or disrupted,” a WhatsApp blog post reads. “Choosing a proxy enables you to connect to WhatsApp through servers set up by volunteers and organizations around the world dedicated to helping people communicate freely.”
The announcement of the feature comes a few short months after the Iranian government attempted to block WhatsApp in the face of widespread protests after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody. WhatsApp responded to reports of disrupted connectivity to say it was “working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do anything within our technical capacity to keep our service up and running.”
This is the first time WhatsApp has officially supported connections via a proxy within the app. This cached WhatsApp support page from earlier this week notes that “WhatsApp isn’t designed to be used with proxy or VPN services” and that “we don’t support these configurations.” As of this writing, the disclaimer has been removed from the page to reflect the launch of the official feature.
WhatsApp says that proxy support should be available now to everyone using the latest version of its iOS or Android apps. It can be found in the Storage and Data menu in Settings.