Millions use WhatsApp despite ban in countries

Millions of people are bypassing restrictions to use WhatsApp in countries where it’s officially banned, according to the platform’s chief, Will Cathcart. In an interview, Cathcart revealed that “tens of millions” of users are finding technical workarounds to access the messaging app, even in places where it’s prohibited.

Countries that ban WhatsApp include Iran, North Korea, Syria, and more recently, China. In other nations like Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, specific features, such as voice calls, are restricted. Despite these obstacles, WhatsApp can still track where its users are based on their registered phone numbers, indicating the widespread use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other methods to bypass censorship.

Cathcart described Apple’s recent decision to block WhatsApp from the Chinese App Store as “unfortunate,” pointing out that it’s part of the company’s compliance with local regulations. Android users, however, can still access WhatsApp through unofficial sources, which makes it easier to get around restrictions. Beyond this, WhatsApp’s proxy service, launched in June, has also helped users circumvent blocks.

China’s censorship extends to other secure messaging apps like Signal and Telegram, as well as microblogging platforms like Threads. Cathcart spoke about these issues at the World Service Presents event, emphasizing the importance of Western technology platforms in promoting values of liberal democracy. However, he acknowledged that the concept of a free and open internet is under threat, with increasing government restrictions and censorship.

Cathcart also noted that Western ideals of internet freedom are facing challenges, not just from authoritarian states but also from democratic governments considering tighter controls. The US, for example, is contemplating a ban on TikTok, citing national security concerns. In the UK, ongoing debates about end-to-end encryption could lead to legislation allowing authorities to read encrypted messages under certain circumstances, a move that Cathcart sees as a threat to privacy.

Despite these challenges, Cathcart remains committed to promoting secure and private communication. He stressed that many people care about privacy, even if they aren’t fully aware of the technical details of end-to-end encryption. To protect users’ rights, he said, “we’ve had to communicate so much about it, to be really clear about what it means and what’s at stake.”

Latest articles

Criminals barred from changing names in BC

Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, will now prevent individuals who have committed serious crimes from changing their names. This decision follows revelations that a...

Climate crisis making economic crisis worse

The economic impact of climate change is six times worse than previously believed, with global warming poised to reduce wealth on a scale comparable...

UK: Rishi Sunak-Akshata Murty’s wealth rise by £120m in a year

The personal fortune of Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, has increased by £120 million as the next general election approaches, according to...

Is US economy still struggling?

The United States finds itself amidst an intriguing economic surge, which carries implications not just for its own trajectory but also for global power...

Related articles