Invite-Only, Facebook Alternative Clubhouse Banned in China After Brief, Uncensored Period
By Erika Dee
Clubhouse refers to the up-and-coming social media platform that has the ability to connect people via audio chat instead of the usual format of most social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, where users post status or photo updates and sending direct messages.
The app officially launched in April of 2020 but has quickly shown promise because it is now valued at $1 billion, according to Axios.
Clubhouse, the Facebook Alternative?
It is deemed a great alternative to social media wherein traditional online communication is practiced. The problem with traditional online communication is that thoughts and opinions can escalate and quickly become hostile when people type their thoughts rather than share them via real conversation.
"When you open the app, you can see 'rooms' full of people talking - all open so you can hop in and out, exploring different conversations," a July blog post from Clubhouse reads. "You enter each room as an audience member, but if you want to talk you just raise your hand, and the speakers can choose to invite you up. Or you can create a room of your own," it added.
Given its promise, one can only wonder why it is banned in China.
Presently, Clubhouse boasts of users such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Included among the popular users are TV show host Oprah Winfrey, actor Ashton Kutcher and a number of successful rappers including Drake, Meek Mill and 21 Savage.
At first, Chinese users experienced the joy of using this app. The app has not only presented a new way for users around the world to connect and share ideas online as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps people physically distanced from each other, but in China, it provided the users a newfound way to connect, given the country's "Great Firewall."
Clubhouse Circumvents China's Firewall
China's firewall is quite popular even around the world. People outside the country find it bizarre that the government is blocking its citizens from using thousands of popular websites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and even Google. But Clubhouse was supposed to be different.
Clubhouse registration is via invite-only. Only those who have invitations get to use the app. Those who want to register and join without an invitation can pre-register by choosing a username and having a phone number registered with the app.
"We are a small team, and we haven't yet finished building the features that will allow us to handle more people," Clubhouse's July blog post reads.
The app allowed thousands of Chinese users to engage in uninterrupted and non-monitored discussions with people abroad about democracy, Taiwan and other sensitive topics. It was a mean feat because it was happening at a time when President Xi Jinping's government is increasingly hostile to opposing or different voices. It was also temporary, after all.
On Monday, China banned Clubhouse around 7 p.m, according to GreatFire.org, a nonprofit U.S. group closely watches over how China engages in internet filtering and tries to aid users circumvent such.
Moreover, The app was already removed from Apple Inc.'s China store by as early as at least Dec. 16, Benjamin Ismail, an activist with the group Apple Censorship, claimed.