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US Chat App Clubhouse Attracts Chinese Users As It Still Evades Censorship

US Chat App Clubhouse Attracts Chinese Users As It Still Evades Censorship
The United States based privately held audio app Clubhouse us attracting a large number of new users from mainland China where there is still no censorship of the app by the Chinese authorities even though the platform is being used as a space for flourishing discussions on rights, national identity and a host of other topics that are typically considered to be sensitive in China. 
Chinese authorities have already banned a number of Western social media apps and platform including the most popular ones outside of the country such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. There is a very tight grip of the government and regulators on the local Internet and content allowed to be displayed to users is heavily censored. The aim is to not allow any content that is critical of or could undermine the status of the ruling Chinese communist party.
Earlier this month, there was explosive growth in user numbers for the Clubhouse app which was launched just in the early 2020. The growth followed a surprise discussion on the platform being held by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev.
Users can get access to the chat rooms of the app only if they are invited to them by the platform’s current members. According to media reports in China, existing users are selling such invites of the platform for between 50 yuan and 400 yuan ($7.73 to $69.59) via the popular Chinese e-commerce sites.
According to a report published recently in the news agency Reuters, there were a number of Chinese-language "club" conversations wherein audio discussions were listened to by audio discussions on a wide variety of topics ranging from Xinjiang detention camps, Taiwan independence and Hong Kong's national security law – all of which are very sensitive for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Strictness of the cyber authorities of China has increased in recent years and has also increased the scope for banning of apps, media outlets and social media sites in the country.
Even though the Clubhouse is still uncensored, it is only available to users on iOS devices and cannot be downloaded or accessed in the local Apple app store.  Those two are considered to be major impediments for the wide spread use of the app in China.
A little modification of cyber authorities allows access to the app for Mainland Chinese users.
According to analysts, there are no plausible explanations about why the app is still unblocked even though it has been possible for some foreign social sites that have relatively small Chinese followings to continue to operate under the radar of censors. Such apps include the likes of 8kun, a central hub for QAnon followers.
The role of former US President Donald Trump and his support base in the former colony of Hong Kong was discussed by activists, journalists and artists in one club chat centred on Hong Kong politics.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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