An emerging new social media platform has been banned in China as part of the country’s censoring of the internet within its borders.
Clubhouse is an app where people join “rooms” and engage in audio only conversations on a variety of different topics.
Since launching in April last year the invite-only, iPhone-only app has quickly gained traction, and recently passed the “unicorn” valuation of $US1 billion.
The app had been gathering steam in China but now looks set to be pushed out of the country like other social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google services.
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On Monday, users in China began reporting they were unable to access the app.
It had previously been removed from Apple’s App Store in China last October, after its global launch the month before, but the people who had managed to install it during that time are now saying the app no longer works.
A message to the app users reads “an SSL error has occurred and a secure connection to the server cannot be made”.
The website remains up but no longer works due to the blocking of a related site.
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China enforces widescale censorship of the internet with its systems, some of the most sophisticated in the world, often referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”.
According to TechCrunch, a Clubhouse room discussing the taboo topic of the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protest hit the maximum of 5000 members, while a similar room had more than 2000 participants in the hours prior to the ban. It’s unclear how many, if any of them, were based in China.
Great Fire China, an organisation monitoring the censorship of the internet in China, reported the Clubhouse application programming interface (API), which is used to help the software communicate, has now been blocked in the country.
Clubhouse is yet to comment on the apparent ban.
While it appears to have been banned in China, the app has also come under scrutiny in other countries.
In Germany, consumer watchdog the Federation of German Consumer Organisations called on the developers, Alpha Exploration Co, to cease and desist their operations for failing to comply with data protection rules and only having its terms and privacy policies in English.
Since launching in the US it has also been criticised for a perceived lack of emphasis on user safety and content moderation.
On the day of the ban, Chinese state-media outlet the Global Times published an article by staff reporters saying the app was “no free speech heaven”.
“Many Chinese mainland users said political discussions on Clubhouse are often one-sided and pro-China voices can be easily suppressed,” the article claimed.