Invite-only audio app Clubhouse is attracting masses of new users from mainland China, where the US app remains uncensored by authorities despite flourishing discussions on rights, national identity and other sensitive topics.
US social media apps including Twitter, YouTube and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook are currently banned in China, where the internet is censored control discussion and block content that could undermine the Communist regime.
The Clubhouse app, launched in early 2020, saw explosive growth in user numbers earlier this month after Tesla and SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and Robinhood’s controversial Chief Executive Vlad Tenev held a surprise discussion on the platform.
Its chat rooms are only accessible via invites from existing members, and as of Sunday, invites to the platform were selling for between 50-400 yuan (approximately $7.73 – $69.59) on popular Chinese e-commerce sites.
Journalists at our partner news agency Reuters directly observed several Chinese-language ‘club’ conversations where thousands of users listened to wide-ranging audio discussions covering topics including Xinjiang detention camps, Taiwan independence and Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
China’s cyber authorities have become increasingly strict in recent years, widening the scope of apps, media outlets and social media platforms banned in the country.
While Clubhouse remains uncensored, it is only available on iOS devices and is unavailable in the local Apple app store, both major barriers for its widespread use in China.
Mainland Chinese users can access the app by modifying the location of their app store.
It’s unclear why the app remains unblocked in China, though some foreign social sites with small Chinese followings manage to operate under the radar of censors.
In one club chat centred on Hong Kong politics, activists, journalists and artists discussed former US President Donald J Trump and his support base in the former colony.
Another popular Chinese language club on the site as of Saturday involved a rare open exchange between netizens in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong over heightened political tensions in the region.
The discussion became a hot topic on China’s own Twitter-like social media site Weibo on Saturday.
“I don’t know how long this environment can last”, said one user in a popular Weibo post that was liked over 65,000 times. “But I will definitely remember this moment in Internet history.”
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Cate Cadell and Pei Li. Additional reporting by Jessie Pang in Hong Kong. Editing by Kim Coghill.
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