On Monday, Feb. 08, after several months of unusually unrestricted downloads, the Chinese users of audio-only social media application Clubhouse suddenly found they couldn’t access it anymore.
Clubhouse, which has been gaining popularity in China, has finally joined the list of banned social media apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. This week is also the starting week of the Chinese traditional lunar New Year.
Clubhouse is a U.S.-based startup and audio drop-in social app. The app is divided into different conversation groups based on topics and Clubhouse users can express their opinions freely to their subscribed listeners.
At this moment, you still need to have an iPhone to use Clubhouse and it’s by invitation only.
Clubhouse says the goal of its app is to cut out the “media middleman” and to allow the audience to “go direct.” Obviously, the media middleman includes journalists.
Clubhouse has come of age as established social media like Twitter and Youtube are facing increasing pressure, being accused of suppressing freedom of speech. As a result, other newly invented social media gain unprecedented opportunities to be exposed to a larger number of users.
For example, Twitter-like social media Parler’s userbase has exploded after the U.S. election. Clubhouse is also one of the beneficiaries.
Some more adventurous celebrities, like Elon Musk, have already opened their own “room of speech”. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was also recognized participating in a conversation in the Clubhouse app.
For some reason, Clubhouse didn’t receive much attention from the Chinese authorities and it kept gaining its popularity in China for months. However, Global Times, a Chinese state-backed newspaper attacked Clubhouse by pointing out it is “not an exceptional ‘free speech heaven,’” hours before the app was shut down inside China by Chinese authorities.
Besides most of the “harmless” conversation rooms on start-ups and business topics, some sensitive political topics of China, like the topics of “Xingjian” and “Taiwan” were also being listed in Clubhouse.
The organizers of those conversation rooms hope to give some fair opportunities to the locals of Xingjian and Taiwan to talk about their personal stories, which also opens the door for the Han people to know the part of story missing from daily propaganda.