Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible 7 forced to stop filming in Italy amid coronavirus fears

Tom Cruise and the cast and crew of Mission: Impossible 7 have been forced to stop filming in Italy after the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

The latest instalment of the blockbuster action franchise had been scheduled to film in Venice over the next three weeks, but Paramount Pictures took the decision to halt production over health and safety concerns.

In a statement, the studio said: “During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts. 

“We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.” 

A seventh person died of coronavirus in Italy on Monday (24 February) and the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 229.

Eleven towns across Lombardy, where the outbreak emerged suddenly last week, and Veneto have been quarantined for at least the next 15 days.

Mission: Impossible 7 will see Cruise reprise his role as agent Ethan Hunt, alongside Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby. 

Coronavirus has led to the cancellation of many events around the world, with Stormzy scrapping tour dates in Asia and BTS advising fans not to attend their shows in South Korea.

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Greyhound to Stop Allowing Border Patrol Agents on Its Buses Without Warrants

Greyhound Lines will no longer allow Border Patrol agents to conduct immigration checks on its buses without warrants, the company announced on Friday — one week after a leaked government memo revealed that agents could not board buses without consent.

The memo appeared to take Greyhound by surprise. For years, the company, the largest operator of intercity buses in America, had been allowing border agents to board its vehicles without warrants, citing a law that it said it didn’t agree with.

“C.B.P. searches have negatively impacted both our customers and our operations,” the company said in 2018, referring to Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency. “Greyhound does not coordinate with C.B.P., nor do we support these actions.”

But in the leaked memo, which was first reported by The Associated Press, the Border Patrol chief confirmed that agents were prohibited from boarding buses and questioning passengers without warrants or the company’s consent.

“When transportation checks occur on a bus at non-checkpoint locations, the agent must demonstrate that he or she gained access to the bus with the consent of the company’s owner or one of the company’s employees,” Chief Carla Provost wrote in the memo, which was dated Jan. 28.

As part of President Trump’s drive to crack down on illegal immigration, passengers aboard buses and trains on domestic routes have increasingly been subjected to immigration checks, and Border Patrol officers have been found working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles from the border.

The company said that it would place stickers on its buses “clearly displaying our position,” and that it planned to send “a letter to the Department of Homeland Security formally stating we do not consent to warrantless searches on our buses and in terminal areas that are not open to the general public.”

The changes were to take effect immediately. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Greyhound’s announcement.

“We are pleased to see Greyhound clearly communicate that it does not consent to racial profiling and harassment on its buses,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director for policy in the A.C.L.U.’s equality division.

“Greyhound is sending a message that it prioritizes the communities it serves,” she added. “We will continue to push other transportation companies to follow its leadership.” Other bus carriers including Jefferson Lines and MTRWestern do not provide consent to warrantless immigration enforcement checks of their buses, according to their websites.

In a statement on Saturday, a Customs and Border Protection official said that while the agency “does not comment on materials asserted to be leaked internal memos, management regularly disseminates information to reinforce existing protocols.”

The official did not directly address Greyhound’s change but added that “enforcement operations away from the immediate border are performed consistent with law and in direct support of immediate border enforcement efforts, and such operations function as a means of preventing smuggling and other criminal organizations from exploitation of existing transportation hubs to travel further into the United States.”

In its statement on Friday, Greyhound referred to a “policy change” at the border agency, although it wasn’t clear that the agency had in fact altered any of its policies.

“We welcome the clarity that this change in protocol brings, as it aligns with our previously stated position, which is that we do not consent to warrantless searches,” the company said. “We are providing drivers and terminal employees with updated training regarding this policy change.”

Last year, Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington State, said that Greyhound’s practice of allowing searches of its vehicles at a train station and bus terminal in Spokane fell “harshly on passengers of color, who are reportedly singled out by C.B.P. for questioning and detention.”

A 2018 “Transportation Not Deportation” petition that collected over 200,000 signatures demanded that Greyhound stop allowing Border Patrol agents on its buses without a warrant or probable cause.

The aggressive immigration enforcement tactics taking place nationwide are not limited to buses. In a widely circulated video recorded in El Paso last week, Border Patrol agents can be seen using a Taser to subdue and apprehend a man in a Burger King restaurant.

Michael Levenson contributed reporting.

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Flywheel: $2,000 exercise bikes stop working after lawsuit from rival Peloton

Owners of Flywheel‘s $2,000 exercise bikes have been told they will stop working properly after a lawsuit.

The smart bikes allowed users to tune into spin classes, streamed live over the internet and onto a touchscreen.

But the company has announced that those classes will come to an end in March, leaving the bikes without their central function.

The decision comes after Flywheel was sued by Peloton over claims that it had copied the idea for a smart bike and live classes from its rival.

The two companies settled the lawsuit earlier this month and the decision to shut down Flywheel’s online spin classes resulted from that decision.


Flywheel still run classes from its studios. An email sent to affected owners said Flywheel “will continue to focus on our original mission of providing the best in-studio cycling experience, and this decision will not impact our studio operations”.

Peloton – which makes an even more expensive bike, for $2,245 – says that it will give existing Flywheel owners the option to trade in their now-bricked bike for a refurbished, working one of their own, for free.

Companies such as Flywheel and Peloton that offer access to gym classes at home through internet-connected equipment have been touted as the future of exercise. As well as spinning classes, a number of companies have sprung up offering streaming weight training classes and more.

But like all parts of the internet of things, they rely on the company to continue supporting the hardware. Flywheel’s bike is one of many internet-enabled household products that have been cut off after their creators have stopped support.

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Holocaust Educators Urge Amazon to Stop Selling Nazi Propaganda

Two organizations that educate the public about the Holocaust are calling on Amazon to stop selling Nazi propaganda, rekindling a debate over what should be sold through the world’s biggest digital marketplace.

The Holocaust Educational Trust, which trains students and teachers across Britain, posted a letter on Twitter on Friday calling on Amazon U.K. to stop selling books by Julius Streicher, the founder of the Nazi-era anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer.

Karen Pollock, the trust’s chief executive, cited “The Poisonous Mushroom,” an illustrated children’s book by Streicher, published in 1938. The text, which likens Jews to the devil, was “designed to brainwash an entire generation of children that Jews were inherently evil,” she wrote in an email.

The book was used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials, during which Streicher was convicted of directing and participating in crimes against humanity. The front cover alone draws on longstanding and offensive antisemitic tropes, Ms. Pollock wrote in the letter. Throughout his life, Streicher was committed to advocating the annihilation of Jews. Among his final words before he was executed in 1946 were “Heil Hitler.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum’s Twitter account shared Ms. Pollock’s letter, along with screen-grabs of several other anti-Semitic texts by Streicher sold on Amazon. “Such books should be removed immediately,” the museum wrote.

On Friday afternoon, Amazon did not appear ready to commit to a course of action.

“As a bookseller, we are mindful of book censorship throughout history, and we do not take this lightly,” a representative said in a statement to The New York Times. “We believe that providing access to written speech is important, including books that some may find objectionable, though we take concerns from the Holocaust Educational Trust seriously and are listening to its feedback.”

This is not the first time Amazon has been urged to remove “The Poisonous Mushroom.” Last month, Sheldon Lazarus, a producer of the movie “Auschwitz: The Final Witnesses,” told the Daily Mail, “If Amazon can predict what you want to buy, then they should be able to stop this filth.”

In the past, Amazon has promptly removed some listings in response to objections. In December, it stopped selling holiday ornaments and a bottle opener displaying images of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz after the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum called the products “disturbing and disrespectful” on social media.

But Amazon takes a different approach with books than it does with home goods. “Amazon’s Offensive Products policies apply to all products except books, music, video and DVD,” the retailer’s guidelines state.

Nonetheless, Amazon has ramped up its policing of some hate-filled texts. In recent months, it has removed several titles by George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. A web address for “My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding” by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, now directs to a page featuring a picture of an Amazon employee’s dog. In July, L.G.B.T.Q. activists convinced Amazon to stop selling “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality,” written by a vocal proponent of the discredited practice of using “conversion therapy” to turn gay people straight.

Some third-party booksellers that sell titles on Amazon told The Times earlier this year that they would welcome more clarity about why some texts are prohibited and not others. They also urged the company to publish a list of prohibited books.

One argument in favor of allowing the sale of hateful texts is that they may be useful to historians and educators.

Ms. Pollock of the Holocaust Educational Trust said she did not believe that all of Streicher’s books should be destroyed. “But there’s a difference between being available at a museum/educational institution and just finding it online among toys, gifts and trivia,” she wrote in an email.

She said that Amazon had told the trust that it was investigating the matter and would get back to her in three days.

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Windows 10 search goes blank: PCs stop working properly because of strange Microsoft outage

PCs across the world have stopped working properly, after a bug with Windows search bar.

Users have found themselves unable to look for things as normal on their computer, apparently because of an issue with Microsoft‘s online services.

The company said in a tweet that it was “investigating a potential access and latency issue with multiple Microsoft 365 services”. It did not make specific reference to the search bar problem, but the post could suggest that other parts of Microsoft’s online services have stopped working, too.

The issue appears when Windows 10 users head to the search bar in the computer’s menu, which usually can search across the computer to find specific files or other information on the computer.

But instead, users just find that search bar blank, and they are unable to see any results.

Windows 10 is used by nearly a billion people. It is unclear how many of those are affected, but the problem does not appear to be present on all Windows 10 computers.

The issue appears to be a consequence of the fact that the search bar connects to Microsoft’s online services, despite being used to search the local computer. When people search, the computer communicates with Microsoft search engine Bing, and many have suggested a problem in that connection could be the cause of the problem.

Reddit users – large numbers of whom have reported the issue in recent hours – have found a workaround for the issue. Many suggest that following the steps involved does fix the problem.

But it involves making changes to the computer’s registry, which can cause problems for the PC and in extreme cases cause it to break entirely, and so that fix is not recommended.

The problems come just days after Microsoft Teams – the company’s online service for office workers to collaborate – went down. That problem was the consequence of Microsoft failing to renew a security certificate.

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The Brexit war is over, but some people aren’t ready to stop fighting

I didn’t expect to be writing about Brexit this week. Doing Question Time in Buxton last Thursday was a useful reminder that the country is already moving on. The people of Buxton didn’t really want to talk about leaving the EU at all, they wanted to talk about trains. It makes sense. After nearly four years concentrating on the macro, people now want to talk about how the hell they get to work. 

I felt surprisingly phlegmatic about the whole thing on Thursday and Friday – but, by Saturday, seeing people online bullying a woman who had clearly spoken on live TV for the first time made me want to vote for Brexit all over again. In fact, it made me want to go for a hard, WTO, up yours Delors, bendy bananas Brexit. Baiting people with lower socio-economic status or poor linguistic skills isn’t a good look for the supposedly caring wing of British politics. If someone really is “thick”, then giving them stick for it is just about the least liberal thing you could do. Personally, if my side kept losing votes to the “stupid” alternative, I’d keep quiet about it.

Nevertheless, now we’ve left the EU I’m not going to use Remainers as a broad pejorative anymore. It’s ridiculous to think millions of people are anything like some of the #FBPE nutters you get on Twitter.

It didn’t take long for those lazy tropes to come out, of course. Some patronised Leave voters by reminding us that everything things we love originates outside Britain: “Actually St George was born in Palestine, his Dragon was from Westeros…keep Calm & Carry on was culturally appropriated from Hobbits.” A few examples of hateful bigots were shared as proof the country was spiralling into a racist dystopia. I hate to break it to you, but we had racists and idiots before Brexit. In fact, I’d go as far to say that racists and idiots have voted in every single election since the dawn of British democracy. I seem to recall the British National Party seeing its first councillor elected in the first councillor in the early 1990s.

I know! The nineties! We even had mindless bigots in the era of free love and acid house. But back then, we didn’t have Twitter or camera phones to share these outliers with the declaration: “This is who we are now!”

The Remain establishment are frustrated because their tools of influence are glitching. The public is no longer voting for things because people who are good at pretending for a living say so. We may even have to question whether viral clips of high-status radio DJs “schooling” members of the public on phone-ins is a genuine route to democratic change. Another problem for the liberal left is that it hasn’t won a national vote since 2005. Many commentators are now jacked up on hypothetical certainty; their ideas haven’t been tested for a while, so they can swan around convinced Ed Miliband would’ve done a cracking job, or that Britain could’ve perennially postponed any question over its ever-changing relationship with Brussels

Despite Brexit Day having passed, some people still actively want to hold onto futile hostilities. On Friday, I appeared on both The News Quiz and The Last Leg. I had a great time. Despite being in the political minority on both shows, both in terms of the panel and the audience, we had playful back-and-forth and the audiences and fellow guests were generous. Subsequently, a handful of Leave voters accused me of “selling out” by being there. First, I’m a Tory, so it should come as no surprise that I quite like working and getting paid for it. Second, the same people who have moaned at the lack of political diversity on panel shows now seem to be furious that it’s starting to happen.

The truth is Brexit has been a war. All wars leave scars. When they end some people, aren’t ready to stop fighting.

Maybe they’re traumatised and over the next few years we’ll see a Brexit version of shell shock. Wards of men and women screaming obscenities at Andrew Neil in the dead of night. Deranged souls diving behind couches when they hear the opening strain of Newsnight. Blokes from Crouch End attacking domestic cats because they thought they saw the spectre of Dominic Cummings beanie hat.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the country is ready to give moving on a tentative try. The smart ones, anyway. Because what’s really dumb is insulting the people you need to start winning over, or keep hold of, if your wing of politics is to stand any chance of future success.

Geoff Norcott’s touring show ‘Taking Liberties’ runs from 25 January to 25 April 2020. Tickets are available here

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BlackBerry phones could be dead as manufacturer says it will stop sales

BlackBerry phones could finally be dead after the manufacturer said it will stop selling the era-defining handsets.

The devices – famous for their hardware keyboard and status as the phone of choice for high-powered executives in the 2000s – have suffered difficult times in recent years, after being squeezed out by iPhone and Android competitors.

In 2016, Chinese firm TCL entered into an agreement that would see it make phones under the famous name, many of which included the same branding and hardware features that made BlackBerry so well-known.

But now TCL says it wil stop selling the BlackBerry handsets at the end of August, and that it will be cutting off software support in 2022.

That makes it likely that the BlackBerry name on phones will die out. BBM, the equally famous messaging app that came on the phones, was already shut down last year.

The company ended its own in-house device development before entering into the deal with TCL in late 2016, releasing a number of new smartphones since with limited critical success.

In a statement posted to the BlackBerry Mobile Twitter page, the two companies said that “as of August 31, 2020, TCL Communication will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices”.

“TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices, however TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices including customer service and warranty service until August 31, 2022 – or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased,” it continued.

“The future is bright for both TCL Communication and BlackBerry Limited, and we hope you’ll continue to support both as we move ahead on our respective paths.”

BlackBerry has since moved into cybersecurity and technology around the internet of things – including software designed to be used in connected cars.

TCL is best known as a TV manufacturer, but also makes a number of other appliances and mobile phones.

Neither company has commented further, and it is not yet known if BlackBerry plans to enter into an agreement with another firm to continue manufacturing mobile devices carrying its name.

Additional reporting by agencies

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China, Desperate to Stop Coronavirus, Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor

GUANGZHOU, China — One person was turned away by hotel after hotel after he showed his ID card. Another was expelled by fearful local villagers. A third found his most sensitive personal information leaked online after registering with the authorities.

These outcasts are from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, where a rapidly spreading viral outbreak has killed more than 420 people in China and sent fear rippling around the world. They are pariahs in China, among the millions unable to go home and feared as potential carriers of the mysterious coronavirus.

All across the country, despite China’s vast surveillance network with its facial recognition systems and high-end cameras that is increasingly used to track its 1.4 billion people, the government has turned to familiar authoritarian techniques — like setting up dragnets and asking neighbors to inform on one another — as it tries to contain the outbreak.

It took the authorities about five days to contact Harmo Tang, a college student studying in Wuhan, after he returned to his hometown, Linhai, in eastern Zhejiang Province. Mr. Tang said he had already been under self-imposed isolation when local officials asked for his personal information, including name, address, phone number, identity card number and the date he returned from Wuhan. Within days, the information began to spread online, along with a list of others who returned to Linhai from Wuhan.

Local officials offered no explanation but returned a few days later to fasten police tape to his door and hang a sign that warned neighbors that a Wuhan returnee lived there. The sign included an informant hotline to call if anyone saw him or his family leave the apartment. Mr. Tang said he received about four calls a day from different local government departments.

“In reality there’s not much empathy,” he said. “It’s not a caring tone they’re using. It’s a warning tone. I don’t feel very comfortable about it.”

Of course, China has a major incentive to track down potential carriers of the disease. The coronavirus outbreak has put parts of the country under lockdown, brought the world’s second-largest economy to a virtual standstill and erected walls between China and the rest of the world.

Still, even some government officials called for understanding as concerns about prejudice spread. Experts warned such marginalization of an already vulnerable group could prove counterproductive, further damaging public trust and sending those who should be screened and monitored deeper underground.

“We are paying attention to this issue,” Ma Guoqiang, the Chinese Communist Party secretary of Wuhan, said at a news conference there last Tuesday.

“I believe that some people may label Hubei people or report them, but I also think most people will treat Hubei people with a good heart.”

While networks of volunteers and Christian groups have been vocal about offering help, many local leaders have focused efforts on finding and isolating people from Hubei. On big screens and billboards, propaganda videos and posters warn people to stay inside, wear masks and wash hands.

In the northern province of Hebei, one county offered bounties of 1,000 yuan, or about $140, for each Wuhan person reported by residents. Images online showed towns digging up roads or deputizing men to block outsiders. Some apartment-building residents barricaded the doors of their towers with China’s ubiquitous ride-share bikes.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, quarantine turned to imprisonment after authorities used metal poles to barricade shut the door of a family recently returned from Wuhan. To get food, the family relied on neighbors who lowered provisions with a rope down to their back balcony, according to a local news report.

Scared for the safety of his children as conditions at home worsened, Andy Li, a tech worker from Wuhan traveling with his family in Beijing, rented a car and began driving south to Guangdong, an effort to find refuge with relatives there. In Nanjing, he was turned away from one hotel before getting a room at a luxury hotel.

There he set up a self-imposed family quarantine for four days, until local authorities ordered all people from Wuhan to move to a hotel next to the city’s central rail station. Mr. Li said the quarantine hotel did not seem to be doing a good job isolating people. Food delivery workers came and went, while gaps in the doors and walls allowed drafts in.

“They’re only working to separate Wuhan people from Nanjing people,” Mr. Li said. “They don’t care at all if Wuhan people infect each other.”

To help, he stuffed towels and tissues under the door to block the drafts.

“I’m not complaining about the government,” Mr. Li said. “There will always be loopholes in policy. But in a selfish way I’m just really worried about my children.”

Across the country, the response from local authorities often resembles the mass mobilizations of the Mao era rather than the technocratic, data-driven wizardry depicted in propaganda about China’s emerging surveillance state. They have also turned to techniques Beijing used to fight the outbreak of SARS, another deadly disease, in 2002 and 2003, when China was much less technologically sophisticated.

Checkpoints to screen people for fevers have popped up at tollbooths, at the front gates of apartment complexes and in hotels, grocery stores and train stations. Often those wielding the thermometer guns don’t hold them close enough to a person’s forehead, generating unusually low temperature readings. Such checks were worthless, for instance, against one man in the western province of Qinghai, whom police are investigating on suspicion that he covered up his symptoms to travel.

Authorities have used computerized systems that track ID cards — which must be used to take most long-distance transport and stay in hotels — to round up people from Wuhan. Yet one article about the ID system in The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, included a plea to all passengers on affected flights and trains to report themselves.

The campaigns have turned life upside down in unexpected ways. Jia Yuting, a 21-year-old student in Wuhan, had already been back in her hometown in central China for 18 days — longer than the 14-day quarantine period — when she got news her grandfather was sick in a nearby village. During a visit to see him, she followed local instructions broadcast on speakers in the village and registered her personal details with the local Communist Party Committee.

When a middle-school teacher randomly reached out to her on the messaging app WeChat to inquire about her health, she realized her data had been leaked online and was spreading on a list. Later, she received a threatening phone call from a man who lived in her home city.

“Why did you come back Wuhan? You should have stayed there. You Wuhan dog!” she recalled him saying.

Authorities offered her no explanation for how it happened, and insisted such leaks did not disrupt her regular life. Three days after her visit to the village, her grandfather died. Local officials there immediately told her family that she would not be allowed to return to the village to pay her final respects at a funeral that was taking place more than three weeks after she had returned from Wuhan.

“I feel that the villagers are ignorant and the government isn’t helping; instead it’s leaking the information everywhere without telling them that I don’t have any symptoms,” she said, adding that she felt guilty she could not be there to comfort her grandmother.

“I was very close to my grandfather. I think it’s not humane — it’s cruel.”

Lin Qiqing contributed research.

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WhatsApp to stop working on many iPhones and Android devices from 1 February

A major update to WhatsApp will see millions of older iPhones and Android devices cut off from the hugely popular messaging app from 1 February.

The mass purge follows a similar cull at the end of 2019, when Windows phones lost support for WhatsApp.

The Facebook-owned app said it is necessary to block people who are running older versions of the Android or iOS operating systems in order to protect the security of its users.

“Because we no longer actively develop for these operating systems, some features might stop functioning at any time,” a WhatsApp blog post explained.

“For the best experience, we recommend you use the latest version of iOS [or Android] available for your phone.”

The latest update will mean users on unsupported devices will no longer be able to create new accounts or reverify existing accounts.

Apple devices affected include any iPhone running iOS 8 or earlier, meaning anyone with an iPhone 4 or older will no longer be able to use WhatsApp.

Certain other phones that were released before iOS 9 was launched will be able to update to the newer operating system. These include the iPhone 4s, all models of the iPhone 5 range and all models of the iPhone 6 range.

The range of Android devices that will continue to be supported is a lot broader, with any phone released after 2011 safe from being cut off.

Any smartphones running Android 2.3.7 – also referred to as Gingerbread – will be hit, as well as all older versions of the OS.

“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future,” WhatsApp said.

“This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp.

The Independent has compiled a list of all affected devices, as well as possible alternatives.

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WhatsApp is about to stop working for millions – what are the best alternatives?

WhatsApp will stop working on dozens of older phone models from 1 February, meaning millions of people will no longer have access to the world’s most popular messaging app.

The Facebook-owned app claims the mass cull is necessary in order to protect the security of its users, as it is no longer actively developing features and updates for certain older handsets.

Affected devices include any iPhones running iOS 8 or earlier, as well as Android phones running versions older than 4.03 – also referred to as Ice Cream Sandwich. (The Independent has put together a list of every device affected.)

Any WhatsApp users with Windows phones have already lost access, after a similar purge at the end of 2019.

While some users may choose to upgrade to a new smartphone to avoid the purge, this may not be an option for everyone. For those who are unwilling or unable to ditch their old phones, we’ve put together a list of the best alternatives.


Arguably the most like-for-like messaging app to WhatsApp is Telegram, which supports many of the same features and even some extras.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov has consistently criticised WhatsApp for perceived security and privacy issues, most recently in a blog post on Thursday.

WhatsApp boasts hundreds of millions more users than Telegram but a series of scandals are pushing people towards the rival messaging app (Composite)

The Russian entrepreneur described WhatsApp as “dangerous”, building on previous claims that it would never be secure.

His warning that “there hasn’t been a single day in WhatsApp’s 10 year journey when the service was secure” appeared to be confirmed earlier this month when it was revealed Jeff Bezos was hacked through a security flaw in the app.

With more than 200 million users, Telegram is therefore already a popular alternative for more privacy-focused users.


With around 260 million users, Viber is even more popular than Telegram. Its users tend to be more concentrated to certain regions, however, meaning it might be difficult to find friends using it unless you are from there.

Its core user base is in eastern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East, though there is a scattering of users elsewhere in the world.

It comes with group chat, instant voice and video messaging, as well as support for audio and video calls.

Similar to both Telegram and WhatsApp, all messages on Viber are end-to-end encrypted, while it also allows users to send timed self-destruct messages.


Endorsed by the world’s most famous whistleblower Edward Snowden, Signal is the go-to app for people who’s number one priority for a messaging service is privacy.

Unlike Telegram, it uses open-source encryption that allows security developers to test it for flaws and find bugs.

Edward Snowden has consistently praised the privacy benefits of the Signal messaging app (Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images)

It is free and simple to use, however it does not support some of the more popular features of other messaging apps.

Available on all major platforms, it’s a great alternative for anyone happy to go without animated emojis.


WeChat is the most popular app you may never have heard of, with nearly a billion people using it every day. Almost all of these users, however, are in China. 

The versatile app has achieved such dominance in its native country by covers messaging, social media and mobile payments.

The multi-purpose app is also used by companies as a communication platform, while organisations also use official accounts as a platform to register for servicers.

Its popularity has led to fears that it is used for state surveillance activities, while also being heavily censored.​

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