Chinese authorities are blocking access to Clubhouse, a social media app that allowed users in China to discuss sensitive topics with people abroad including Taiwan and treatment of the country’s Muslim minority. The move adds Clubhouse to thousands of websites and social media apps to which the ruling Communist Party blocks access to try to control what China’s public sees and reads.
Service to users in China was interrupted at about 7 p.m. Monday in Beijing, according to GreatFire.org, a nonprofit group in the United States that monitors Chinese internet filtering and tries to help users circumvent it. Over the weekend, several large Chinese-language chat rooms were set up on the invite-only audio app, where guests talked about politically-charged topics such as the ongoing crackdown against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, democracy in Hong Kong and the sovereignty of Taiwan. People with mainland phone numbers reported no longer being able to receive text messages from Clubhouse, in effect blocking them from joining as invitation and verification codes are sent to a mobile phone to register a new account. President Xi Jinping’s government refuses to acknowledge the existence of its internet filters, but researchers abroad trace blockages to servers within state-owned China Telecom Ltd. through which internet traffic into and out of China is required to pass.
Clubhouse temporarily gave Chinese users an uncensored forum to talk about politically sensitive issues. Unlike many other social media apps, it uses oral conversation, which allowed users in China to talk directly to people in Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by the Communist Party as part of its territory, and others abroad.