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WhatsApp threatens to shut down in the UK over Online Safety Bill

Published Mar 10th, 2023 4:40PM EST
Image: WhatsApp

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WhatsApp users in the United Kingdom could be forced to use a different communication app if the company is forced to break end-to-end encryption.

Critics of the Online Safety Bill, which is being considered by the government, say that it will effectively enable the agency to break end-to-end encryption. Will Cathcart, Meta’s head of WhatsApp, says that the company would rather be banned from the country than break end-to-end encryption on its app.

In a statement reported by The Guardian, Cathcart said that the company has “never seen a liberal democracy” do what the UK is considering with the bill.

“It’s a remarkable thing to think about. There isn’t a way to change it in just one part of the world. Some countries have chosen to block it: that’s the reality of shipping a secure product. We’ve recently been blocked in Iran, for example. But we’ve never seen a liberal democracy do that.

The reality is, our users all around the world want security. Ninety-eight per cent of our users are outside the UK. They do not want us to lower the security of the product, and just as a straightforward matter, it would be an odd choice for us to choose to lower the security of the product in a way that would affect those 98% of users.”

WhatsApp isn’t the only messaging service coming out against the bill. Signal has also said that it will shut down the service in the country if it must break its end-to-end encryption in order to comply with the law if it was to go into effect.

The bill has support from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), whose Richard Collard says that “it’s possible to tackle child-abuse material and grooming in end-to-end encrypted environments.” The UK government says that “the Online Safety Bill does not represent a ban on end-to-end encryption.”

As WhatsApp and Signal threaten to leave the UK, rival TikTok continues to face a potential nationwide ban in the United States.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.

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