WhatsApp 'could be blocked in UK' if Online Safety Bill passes

New bill would force the company to scan messages for trolling and abusive material

The Whatsapp logo on a smartphone screen. AFP
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WhatsApp's boss Will Cathcart has said he would sooner British users were stopped from using the popular messaging app than allow the government to require it to impinge on their privacy.

The company will not comply if the new Online Safety Bill forces it to scan messages for child abuse material, the BBC reported.

The app uses encryption and not even the company can read users' messages.

“Our users all around the world want security — 98 per cent of our users are outside the UK, they do not want us to lower the security of the product,” he said.

“We’ve recently been blocked in Iran, for example. We’ve never seen a liberal democracy do that.”

“We won’t lower the security of WhatsApp. We have never done that — and we have accepted being blocked in other parts of the world”, he said.

“When a liberal democracy says, ‘Is it OK to scan everyone’s private communication for illegal content?’ that emboldens countries around the world that have very different definitions of illegal content to propose the same thing”, Mr Cathcart said.

“If companies installed software on to people’s phones and computers to scan the content of their communications against a list of illegal content, what happens when other countries show up and give a different list of illegal content?”

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The Online Safety Bill has been working its way through Parliament since being published in draft form in May 2021.

It is designed to help clamp down on online trolling and illegal forms of pornography by placing more responsibility on the platforms that internet users use.

In January, Wikipedia warned that the bill could limit freedom of expression.

Updated: March 09, 2023, 9:23 PM