After the app was used by Chinese citizens to discuss topics that openly contradict Chinese government propaganda, Clubhouse was blocked by Chinese censors last week. This is the latest blow to free speech in the country. Thousands of Chinese citizens were using the audio-only social network to discuss political topics such as the internment of the Uyghur Muslims in China and the situation with Taiwan.
Clubhouse is an invitation-only, audio-only social networking app, where users can join virtual audio conversations about various topics. The Clubhouse company is currently valued in excess of $1 billion.
China has historically enforced regulations and censorship when it comes to speaking free online. We’ve already seen this in the way of the social credit system, WeChat, and the incarceration of the Uyghur Muslims.
Clubhouse initially evaded Chinese media censors, becoming a place for people in China and everywhere else to speak up about issues that concerned them.
The app was flooded with conversations from around the world, some addressing politically charged topics like the repression of Muslims in China and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Some shared their thoughts on filmmaking, feminists read works by feminist writers, interaction with minorities and the infamous Communist Party propagandist chatroom. It was almost like virtual performance art.
The app allows 5000 users to join audio chat rooms which disappear once the conversation is over. These conversations are not recorded.
An employee at a social media platform who was in one of these chatrooms told the room that no one should ever think they can escape government censorship. Shortly after, the app was blocked in China. Speakers were in tears.
This demonstrates that the people of China crave censor-free conversations. The conversations in these chat rooms were progressive, honest, and free from the filter of official Chinese media.
The Chinese government is blocking free speech because the regime is threatened by the free flowing exchanges and ideas of the Chinese people.
The New York Times writes: “… mainlanders got a chance to prove that they aren’t brainwashed drones. People who had been demonized got a chance to speak out and be humanized… Clubhouse gave mainland Chinese users a chance to flock to chatrooms focused on these taboos.”