Days after becoming an instant hit to Chinese users, audio chat app Clubhouse was reportedly blocked by government sensors in China.
Chinese users failed to access the invitation-only social networking platform on Monday, reports CNN. Upon logging in, users were reportedly greeted by a red error message that read “a secure connection to the server cannot be made.”
Users took to WeChat and Weibo and launched the trending hashtag “Clubhouse” to find answers about the situation. By Tuesday, the viral hashtag was censored from Weibo.
In China, users are able to access social media platforms blocked by the “Great Firewall” via a virtual private network (VPN), which utilizes encryption to disguise internet traffic.
While Chinese Clubhouse users also got around the firewall using a VPN, those with mainland phone numbers remain unable to register a new account as they are blocked from receiving invitation and verification codes from the app.
Prior to the app’s blocking, Chinese users created multiple chat rooms where they discussed sensitive topics such as the government’s alleged crackdown against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Hong Kong’s democracy and Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The platform also opened a rare opportunity for users from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to engage in dialogues, TechCrunch reported. Aware that the app wouldn’t last long in China, users have created Clubhouse rooms titled “How long will Clubhouse last in China” and “Have you been invited to have tea for using Clubhouse?” “Having tea” was explained as a euphemism for getting interrogated by the authorities.
After blocking access, new chat rooms joined by hundreds of users have now emerged on Clubhouse to discuss the situation. Some of the users claim they were based in mainland China.
Shenzhen resident Susan Liang told CNN that she intends to continue using VPN to join discussions on sensitive topics.
“It is too rare an opportunity. Everyone has lived under the Great Firewall for so long, but on this platform, we can talk about anything,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s like someone drowning, and can finally breathe in a large gulp of air.”
Chinese state media Global Times had earlier published an article titled “Clubhouse is no ‘free speech heaven,’ say Chinese mainland users” quoting users who condemned the app for alleged “anti-China” comments.
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