Clubhouse, an audio-based social media app, is gaining traction in China. However, considering it is iPhone-only it might not become popular in China. And, if it does, there is a strong likelihood the government will ban it.
Clubhouse is a US audio-based social networking app backed by the popular investment firm Andreessen Horowitz. It was launched in March 2020, and has attracted big-name users such as Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk.
Over the weekend, the app’s popularity in China has increased. On the invite-only groups, people can openly discuss sensitive topics such as human rights violations in Xinjiang and Taiwan without worrying much about the censors in Beijing.
Discussion of topics such as Uighurs and Taiwan, which make the government look bad, is censored in China. News articles on such topics and censored and removed by the government before they spread.
According to Bloomberg, there were several Chinese rooms in the app over the weekend. One room, with more than 4,000 people, was discussing the Taiwan issue. In another room, people were discussing the Uighur issue, with some narrating how they have not seen their relatives for years. The government has been placing Uighurs, an ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang province that practices Islam, in re-education camps.
“Thanks to Clubhouse I have the freedom and the audience to express my opinion,” a Finland-based doctor and activist who goes by Halmurat Harri Uyghur told Bloomberg. “The app is beneficial to me, providing a platform for dialog between Uighurs and Chinese where I can tell my story.”
As of February 7, Clubhouse was accessible in mainland China without the need for a VPN. However, the app is only available on iPhones, and to register, you need a non-Chinese Apple account. With those limitations, the app’s popularity might not grow as much.
“I don’t think it can really reach the general public in China,” said Fang Kechen, a communications expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “If so, it will surely get blocked.”