On Wednesday night on the popular and exclusive platform Clubhouse, a man named David Markovich became the most hated character on the platform.
In case you aren’t familiar, Clubhouse is a platform where rooms are created for users to listen in on and participate in spoken conversations with speakers on the stage. Clubhouse first made headlines for its invite-only policy and celebrity presence.
It all started when Markovich, the CEO of digital marketing community Online Geniuses, opened a room called “Let’s all Welcome China and Japan to Clubhouse,” meant to welcome Asian Clubhouse members who were new to the platform. Many of these members “didn’t speak English as their first language,” other users who spoke to NextShark said. For reasons unknown, Markovich designated himself the sole moderator of the room without anyone on the panel to translate for him. Markovich allegedly also failed to reach out to any API members of the community, lumping in Japanese and Chinese users without regard to the difference in language. Markovich had apparently intended for his room to be the “go to” room for new Asian users to learn about the platform.
One user who watched this unfold told NextShark that Markovich used a photo of Asians “as an example of him modding Asians.” Users claim that Markovich “butchered” pronouncing names of Asian users even after having asked how to pronounce them — he was, however, able to flawlessly pronounce all the English names. Keeping a tight grip of the stage, some in attendance also claimed that Markovich kept all conversations on a very superficial level and quickly shut down any conversation that became too deep.
The disorganization of Markovich’s room led fellow Clubhouse user and Philadelphia-based Chef Matt Delatour to create a room named “Why’s David Markovich moderating a room dedicated to Asians?” The room began to amass an audience almost equal in size to David’s, presumably with baffled Clubhouse users asking the same question.
Meanwhile, as new Asian Clubhouse members joined Markovich’s room, one user in particular began to welcome them in Chinese. Suddenly, many users claim that Markovich angrily interrupted the welcoming speaker. Visibly flustered, he allegedly claimed in front of listeners that the greeter was “disrespecting his space” and that he didn’t “have the right to speak out for Chinese people.” He also allegedly demanded the user “speak English only” because it was “his room.”
Markovich then allegedly asked the room in English if anyone agreed with the user welcoming Chinese members, posing that if they wanted to hear him speak, they should speak up, repeating himself a second time. Markovich openly asked, “Who here can not speak English?” users told NextShark.
The Chinese speaker who Markovich interrupted then allegedly asked him how Chinese people were supposed to speak when they didn’t understand English.
Markovich angrily replied that the user had “no right to disrespect his space” and “interrupt his flow,” according to other users who watched in shock. He allegedly used the term “hijacking” in his attempt to turn the bewildered crowd against the speaker.
Users also claim that Markovich proclaimed he was “creating a beautiful space” and that the welcoming user was free to go create his own room. Markovich continued to berate the user in front of everyone who was watching, claiming that the user was “using his influence to disrupt his room,” according to witnesses.
That user left the room as Markovich continued to berate him, and users claimed that Markovich continued to insult him even after he left. Markovich’s tantrum was allegedly further fueled by the existence of “anti-David” rooms, possibly referring to Delatour’s. Throughout his entire outburst, users told NextShark that not one person on stage spoke up against him. Typically, only those on stage can speak up, and stage access is granted by the moderator, in this case, only Markovich himself.
Shocked Clubhouse users who had watched or heard of Markovich’s outburst left his room to join Delatour’s room which amassed around 1,500 people, a massive audience by Clubhouse standards. Several other similar rooms soon opened up, some even being spoken exclusively in Asian languages, making clear to most Clubhouse users that night that Markovich’s apparent meltdown was the talk of the town.
At one point, users claim that Markovich was invited to the room Delatour had created. Markovich allegedly refused to join because “he didn’t want to be in a room with 15 Asian moderators.” Shortly after, Markovich allegedly opened a new room by himself called “Ask David Markovich Anything.” He then told Delatour’s room that he wanted them to join him there and “demanded respect,” users told NextShark.
Most people did not respond to Markovich’s alleged demand, and later when other users went to check on him, they discovered that his account had been seemingly suspended from the platform.
Users claimed later that Markovich issued an apology, saying he was “not feeling well” which is why he couldn’t be a “good host.” Some users claimed they reached out to him afterwards but were not able to hear back.
NextShark reached out to Clubhouse for a comment on last night’s events and Markovich’s potential suspension, but we haven’t received a response yet. As of Thursday, Markovich was removed as an admin on Talk Club for violating Clubhouse’s Community Standards. While users have claimed he may have been suspended, his Clubhouse profile remains intact.
NextShark also reached out to Markovich on Twitter and Instagram for comment. A source close to him told us that he has so far declined to speak to the media or release a statement.
Throughout the night after Markovich had retreated from the platform, discussions on his display of White privilege, his outright bullying of other Clubhouse members, his gaslighting, calls to cancel him, his xenophobic comments, and the triggering effects his actions had on the many POC who initially joined Clubhouse to escape the toxic culture of being “othered,” raged on.
By Thursday morning, the events of last night had become so popular that a Google Doc roughly recounting events began circulating on Twitter. We are declining to link the document because it contains names of individuals affected by Markovich’s behavior who have not granted permission to be named publicly.
Clubhouse user Celia Major told NextShark that she and many others stayed up into the early hours of the morning on the platform to listen to and share stories about similar experiences. While some told us that what they witnessed made them scared to use Clubhouse, others used the incident to echo the importance of speaking up, calling out, and reporting those who bully others on platforms like Clubhouse. “Rather than focus on him, the community is looking to focus on our newfound unity. We are looking past the catalyst that brought us together so that we can focus on our future. We will continue being heard because last night, people listened,” Major said.
Markovich’s alleged past problematic behavior was also brought to light, from reports of him bullying other Clubhouse users before last night’s events to the time he allegedly told Jewish users who claimed to have experienced anti-Semitism on Clubhouse that he personally never witnessed anti-Semitism, which was seen as belittling the problem.
Several prominent figures in the API community were also witnesses to Markovich’s behavior, the tip of an iceberg representative of the treatment many APIs around the world experience in Western society.
Sam Hyun, Chairperson of the Massachusetts Asian American Commission, elaborated:
“This is a larger problem that extends beyond David Markovich. It’s the constant invalidation and gaslighting of Asian Americans. When we speak up, we are silenced. When we stand up, we are shut down. This is an opportunity for our community to come together and refuse to accept any racism towards our community.”
Bryan Pham, founder of Asian Hustle Network, shared similar sentiments:
“Clubhouse is a reflection of the real world. What happened last night was extremely problematic and the issues extend beyond this app. Asians have been overlooked and often silenced but enough is enough.”
Many also spoke on the positives that came from the incident, particularly where the community came together in solidarity against behavior similar to Markovich’s.
Keith Koo, founder of the Asian Professionals Community on Clubhouse and a Board Member on the Asian Business League and Silicon Valley Chinese Technology Business Association, told NextShark:
“In spite of the incident and history in the physical and digital world, my great hope for Clubhouse was strengthened after the incident with the rise of allies across all ethnic groups who came to support valued API community builders. The rapid response and swift action by other community builders shows the power of a network effect for good. This might not have happened anywhere else but Clubhouse.”