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WhatsApp could shut down for all Brits if new law is passed, experts warn

BRITS could be shut out of WhatsApp if the online safety bill is passed in its current form, experts have warned.

WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the UK, uses end-to-end-encryption (E2EE), which is being reformed under the proposed bill’s so-called ‘spy clause’.


The bill, designed to protect children online, is being debated in Parliament today.Credit: Getty Images – Getty

In the bill, the government is looking to give tech companies oversight of encrypted messages.

Campaigners fear this could infringe privacy and pose cybersecurity risks.

“If the online safety bill goes through, it will make the UK one of the least safe countries in the world for businesses and consumers,” Matthew Hodgson, co-founder of decentralised messaging app Element, said.

“No modern business can follow its unworkable rules, which undermine fundamental security processes such as end-to-end-encryption, which the UK government itself depends upon.”

The picture Hodgson has painted of the UK if the online safety bill gets passed by MPs is bleak.

“At best, we can hope it becomes another regulation the government doesn’t enforce. But, if it does enforce it, this is what we could see in the first sixty days:

“WhatsApp ceases operations in the UK; confused users switch to unencrypted apps like Telegram, completely undermining their security.”

He added that the existing “black market” for encrypted communication could swell and a string of global businesses may begin to leave the UK due to concerns over red tape.

The bill, designed to protect children online, is being debated in Parliament today.

Independent analyst, Paolo Pescatore, told The Sun that the bill puts the future of WhatsApp in the UK “in doubt”.

“There is a precedence seen in other countries and represents the latest saga in the ongoing battle between government and regulators with Big Tech dominance,” he continued.

The law, dubbed the ‘spy clause’, goes beyond squashing publicly posted harmful content.

It encourages messaging apps like Meta-owned WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as well as Signal, to scan all Brits’ messages for illicit content.

“Striking the right balance between surveillance and private end-to-end encryption is no easy feat given the merits and concerns on both sides,” Pescatore explained.

“To think that the UK could follow China, Syria and Qatar where WhatsApp might not work is extraordinary.

“Inevitably, this could cause a severe backlash among users and voters alike at a challenging time for the government.”

In response to the bill, head of WhatsApp at Meta, Will Cathcart, said last year that “intrusive scanning of private messages would be a step backwards that breaks encryption for billions of people”.

He urged governments to take steps forward in online security, not steps back.

Michael Queenan, CEO and co-founder of data services specialist Nephos Technologies, lent some relief for avid Meta-owned WhatsApp users in the country.

He told The Sun: “There have been concerns that the Online Safety Bill will ‘erode’ end-to-end encryption, particularly in private messaging, which could ring the death knell for social media giants in the UK.

“I think that is the least of their problems, as all they will do is adjust their software to meet new requirements.

“Any platform like Meta or Telegram will face the same issue, so I don’t see one replacing the other.”

Instead of a full-blown retreat out of the UK by the likes of WhatsApp, the popularity of mobile and desktop VPN software is expected to explode.

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VPN software’s mask and encrypt all traffic for data leaving a device.

“That in itself may be the thorn in the side of these monoliths, who need to stop thinking about profit and think about protecting the privacy of under 18’s before it is too late,” said Queenan.

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