WhatsApp has dubbed the new "online safey bill" as the "most concerning piece of legislation currently being discussed in the western world" and says it will withdraw from the country in the same way that it has withdrawn from other authoritarian regimes such as China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Qatar and The UAE.
Speaking during a UK visit in which he will meet legislators to discuss the government's flagship internet regulation, Will Cathcart, Meta's head of WhatsApp, said: "It's a remarkable thing to think about. 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 per cent of users."
The UK government already has the power to demand the removal of encryption thanks to the 2016 investigatory powers act, but WhatsApp has never received a legal demand to do so, Cathcart said.
The online safety bill is a concerning expansion of that power, because of the "grey area" in the legislation. Under the bill, the government or Ofcom could require WhatsApp to apply content moderation policies that would be impossible to comply with without removing end-to-end encryption.
If the company refused to do, it could face fines of up to four per cent of its parent company Meta's annual turnover -- unless it pulled out of the UK market entirely.