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Why WhatsApp May Be Banned in the UK

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By Oscar Blair - - 5 Mins Read

UK ministers have warned that the popular messaging app WhatsApp might be closed down in the future. A new online safety bill will require UK legislatures to touch almost every part of online life in the country.

The bill, which might impose a WhatsApp UK ban, has been in the development process for more than four years and is more than 250 pages long. The bill is expected to cover most things happening in cyberspace, including messaging apps like WhatsApp in the country. It has resulted in a years-long row and arguments among the UK legislature as they try to find a solution to most of the bill's propositions. 

The issue with the bill is that it mandates social media and messaging platforms like WhatsApp to use their platforms in the fight against child abuse and terrorism. It is reported that some social media platforms do not agree with some bill content.

When the bill is signed into law, Ofcom will have the power to control social media platforms according to the state's directives. Some of the penalties for not keeping to this bill when signed into law is the seizing of 10% of their profits in a fiscal year. However, social messaging apps like WhatsApp says the bill doesn't support end-to-end encryption. If social messaging apps like WhatsApp follow the bill's directives, they will have to view some users' messages without permission. 

"The bill provides no explicit protection for encryption. And if implemented as written, could empower Ofcom to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services, nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users," a coalition of social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal said. 

Union Jack, British flag on London Street

WhatsApp to Leave the UK 

A representative of WhatsApp in the United Kingdom said that if the UK WhatsApp ban is implemented, they may be forced to leave the country. The representative pointed out that the majority of their users are outside the country, and moving out of the United Kingdom might not affect them as is being projected by the government.

"Ninety-eight percent 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 that 98% of users," WhatsApp's chief, Will Cathcart, told the Guardian in March. 

Legislators have called on the government to take the threats of messaging apps like WhatsApp seriously. A bill violating the right to privacy might lead to an ugly situation if mismanaged. 

"These services, such as WhatsApp, will potentially leave the UK. This is not like threatening to storm off. It is not done in any kind of pique in that way. In putting enormous pressure on these platforms to scan communications, we must remember that they are global platforms. They have a system that works for billions of people all around the world. A relatively small market such as the UK is not something for which they would compromise their billions of users around the world," a legislator told the House of Lords last week.