A new WhatsApp update allows iPhone users to record voice messages and use them as status updates.
The ever-popular WhatsApp instant messaging service has rolled out a new iPhone app update that adds a new feature for people who like to use the little-known status update feature.
WhatsApp has long allowed people to post text-based status updates that can then be seen by their friends and family depending on their privacy settings. Now, an updated WhatsApp release on iPhone allows people to create a voice note and use that as their status update for the very first time.
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The new update is available for download via the App Store right now and it’s possible that you already have it installed if you have automatic updates enabled. The download is of course free, as is the WhatsApp service.
“Introducing Voice Status – you can now record a voice note and share it to Status,” the WhatsApp App Store release notes say. “Go to Status tab > tap the “pencil” icon > hold the “microphone” icon to record.”
WhatsApp’s release notes do add that the new features are currently rolling out and will do so over the coming weeks, suggesting those who don’t yet see the new voice-based status updates should hold tight. The new feature will become available to all eventually.
WhatsApp is a hugely popular instant messaging service, especially across Europe. It’s also a great way for people to stay in touch with others who are on different platforms. For example, as great as iMessage is, it’s only useful if everyone you now has an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Those who are on Android would only receive an SMS, making third-party solutions like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram a much better cross-platform option for many.
Those who already have the WhatsApp app installed can check for the new update now. For everyone that’s new, the app can also be downloaded from the App Store afresh, too.
Once praised as the defining feature of the internet, the ability to connect with physically distant people is something that governments have recently been seemingly intent on restricting. Authorities have been increasingly pulling the plug, putting over 4 billion people in the shadows in the first half of 2023 alone.
Social media platforms are often the first means of communication to be restricted. Surfshark, one of the most popular VPN services, counted at least 50 countries guilty of having curbed these websites and apps during periods of political turmoil such as protests, elections, or military activity.
The company has recently released some new statistics on the matter, so I spoke with one of the researchers to understand more about this worrying trend and what’s at stake.
As mentioned, 50 nations have reportedly pulled the plug on popular social media services like Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok in the past eight years. However, there are some governments that went the extra mile in repressing their citizens’ digital life.
“Five countries have experienced the longest restrictions (lasting more than five years). Although that may not sound like many countries, it translates to 1.55 billion people,” Lina Survila, Surfshark spokeswoman, told me while commenting on the findings.
People living in China, Iran, and Turkmenistan have not been able to access Facebook, YouTube, or X for 14 years now. In Eritrea, YouTube went dark 13 years ago and never recovered. North Korean nationals could never access Western social media platforms, and Instagram went dark for visitors as well eight years ago, followed by all other major platforms at a later date.
“The fact that so many people have been deprived of social media access by their governments for such a long period is what shocked me the most,” Survila told me.
Elsewhere, around 2.3 billion people have experienced restricted access to social media for an average of 4126 hours (about half a year). In Russia, for example, people have been facing restrictions on Facebook, Instagram, and X since the invasion of Ukraine began, while other countries enforced short-term information blackouts during times of political turmoil.
In 2023, Turkey blocked Twitter for just two days, but it was when people needed it the most: in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that killed over 15,000 people in both Turkey and Syria.
Ethiopia has not had access to popular social media sites since February 2023 amid protests over the split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, while people in Senegal turned to secure VPN services in June to cut through the thick blanket of censorship.
In Western countries, social media platforms are often seen in a negative light. These platforms are thought to distort users’ views on important political topics, endanger children in different ways, and promote a rather superficial lifestyle.
The truth is that these platforms are far more powerful when used in the right way. They enable people to access news in real-time, exchange opinions, and keep the information flow going. All this is especially crucial during times of crisis. Authorities know this very well, and that’s precisely why they might decide to block their access, curbing citizens’ freedom of speech in the process.
Survila told me: “Restricting these platforms isn’t simply a limitation on social connections—it’s a suppression of an essential avenue for transparency, potentially allowing government propaganda to dominate without opposition.”
Asked how the trend has developed over the years, she said to have not noticed any clear increase in the number of restrictions imposed. At the same time, there was not a decrease either. According to Survila, this means that social media blackouts still remain a common tool among autocratic leaders to silence the public and hinder the spread of information.
She said: “It’s unlikely that the countries imposing decade-long restrictions will retract them anytime soon. It also doesn’t look like the number and frequency of new restrictions will slow down in the near future.”
Even worse, perhaps, this worrying censorship wave might not even remain an exclusive prerogative of certain despotic governments for long. Also some so-called Western democracies have been showing a will to gain greater control of how people communicate online.
The US took a strong stance against TikTok at the start of the year, which led to the state of Montana to issue an outright TikTok ban for all citizens. This was supposed to be enforced starting from January 1, 2024, but it was blocked by the federal district court on November 30.
On this point, Survila said: “Harmful and abusive content should undeniably be eliminated from online platforms, and it’s important that social media companies and governments implement strong measures to identify and remove such material. But it’s also crucial that we preserve individuals’ access to social media. Banning entire platforms is certainly not the right solution.”
How a VPN can help
Short for virtual private network, a VPN is security software that both encrypts internet connections and spoofs your real IP address location. The latter ability is exactly what you need to bypass social media restrictions. It tricks your ISP to think you’re browsing from a completely different country entirely, granting you access to Facebook, Instagram, or any other platforms despite this being blocked.
While citizens living under such a digital suppression learned how to navigate restrictions, also governments are getting savvy enough to prevent them from evading these blocks. VPN censorship is on the rise as well, in fact, with China and Iran gaining the crown as the biggest offenders worldwide in 2023.
That’s why I suggest downloading several apps to hop from one to another in case these get blocked. I recommend checking TechRadar’s best free VPNs page to choose the safer freebies on the market. Additional tools like the Tor browser can also help here, as well as less-known software like Snowstorm and Lantern.
On its side, Surfshark developers have equipped the software with some censorship-resistant features like its Camouflage mode to escape VPN blocks and No Borders which automatically connect you to the servers performing the best under network restrictions. At the same time, its researchers are committed to keep shed light on this dangerous practices to put some pressure on countries’ leaders.
Survila said: “By releasing our studies and raising awareness of social media restrictions, we hope to encourage people to talk about them. In this way, we hope to gradually build public pressure against the authoritarian regimes responsible for imposing these restrictions, leading them to reconsider and potentially cease such actions.”
BANGKOK (AP) — A former high-profile Myanmar army officer who had served as information minister and presidential spokesperson in a previous military-backed government has been convicted of sedition and incitement, a legal official said Thursday. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Ye Htut, a 64-year old retired lieutenant colonel, is the latest in a series of people arrested and jailed for writing Facebook posts that allegedly spreading false or inflammatory news. Once infrequently prosecuted, there has been a deluge of such legal actions since the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
He was arrested in late October after a military officer from the Yangon Regional Military Command reportedly filed a change against him, around the time when some senior military officers were purged on other charges, including corruption. He was convicted on Wednesday, according to the official familiar with the legal proceedings who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities.
Ye Htut had been the spokesperson from 2013 to 2016 for President Thein Sein in a military-backed government and also information minister from 2014 to 2016.
After leaving the government in 2016, Ye Htut took on the role of a political commentator and wrote books and posted articles on Facebook. For a time, he was a visiting senior research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a center for Southeast Asia studies in Singapore.
After the army’s 2021 takeover, he often posted short personal vignettes and travel essays on Facebook in which he made allusions that were generally recognized to be critical of Myanmar’s current military rulers.
The official familiar with the court proceedings against Ye Htut told The Associated Press that he was sentenced by a court in Yangon’s Insein prison to seven years for sedition and three years for incitement. Ye Htut was accused on the basis of his posts on his Facebook account, and did not hire a lawyer to represent him at his trial, the official said.
The sedition charge makes disrupting or hindering the work of defense services personnel or government employees punishable by up to seven years in prison. The incitement charge makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that cause fear, spread false news, agitate directly or indirectly for criminal offences against a government employee — an offense punishable by up to three years in prison.
However, a statement from the Ministry of Legal Affairs said he had been charged under a different sedition statute. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.
According to detailed lists compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group based in Thailand, 4,204 civilians have died in Myanmar in the military government’s crackdown on opponents and at least 25,474 people have been arrested.
A high-ranking CIA official boldly shared multiple pro-Palestinian images on her Facebook page just two weeks after Hamas launched its bloody surprise attack on Israel — while President Biden was touring the Jewish state to pledge the US’s allegiance to the nation.
The CIA’s associate deputy director for analysis changed her cover photo on Oct. 21 to a shot of a man wearing a Palestinian flag around his neck and waving a larger flag, the Financial Times reported.
The CIA agent also shared a selfie with a superimposed “Free Palestine” sticker, similar to those being plastered on businesses and public spaces across the nation by protesters calling for a cease-fire.
The Financial Times did not name the official after the intelligence agency expressed concern for her safety.
“The officer is a career analyst with extensive background in all aspects of the Middle East and this post [of the Palestinian flag] was not intended to express a position on the conflict,” a person familiar with the situation told the outlet.
The individual added that the sticker image was initially posted years before the most recent crisis between the two nations and emphasized that the CIA official’s Facebook account was also peppered with posts taking a stand against antisemitism.
The latest post of the man waving the flag, however, was shared as Biden shook hands with Israeli leaders on their own soil in a show of support for the Jewish state in its conflict with the terrorist group.
Biden has staunchly voiced support for the US ally since the Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 people, making the CIA agent’s posts in dissent an unusual move.
In her role, the associate deputy director is one of three people, including the deputy CIA director, responsible for approving all analyses disseminated inside the agency.
She had also previously overseen the production of the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified compilation of intelligence that is presented to the president most days, the Financial Times said.
“CIA officers are committed to analytic objectivity, which is at the core of what we do as an agency. CIA officers may have personal views, but this does not lessen their — or CIA’s — commitment to unbiased analysis,” the CIA said in a statement to the outlet.
Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence nor the White House responded to The Post’s request for comment.
All of the official’s pro-Palestinian images and other, unrelated posts have since been deleted, the outlet reported.
The report comes as CIA Director William Burns arrived in Qatar, where he was due to meet with his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts and the Gulf state’s prime minister to discuss the possibility of extending the pause in fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip for a second time.