Censors Hamper Social Media Startup Company Clubhouse in China

By James White Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Social media platforms wield immense power. Businesses such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are just a few examples of billion-dollar companies that allow users the opportunity to express their views, speak their minds, and tell their stories.

A smartphone showing a red prohibition sign.

Though recent events surrounding the “free speech” app Parler and the banning of former US President Donald Trump from various social accounts have raised concerns about the reach of the power brandished by these companies, businesses such as these are extremely important in areas of the world where government-sponsored media and censorship reign supreme. Startup social media company Clubhouse is feeling the burden of providing users with these freedoms in China.

Invite-Only, Unabridged Chat Rooms

Founded by entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, the young, audio-only startup company launched in March 2020. The business rapidly sparked the interest of investors like Andreessen Horowitz, raising a total of $110 million since its founding. In a recent blog post by Davison and Seth, the founders claimed that two million users participated in one of the many exclusive chat rooms provided by the business during the previous week.

“Our goal was to build a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk,” read the founders’ blog post. “Our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people and learned.”

Unlike many platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, that are centered around text posts and shared multimedia, Clubhouse is entirely audio-based. No texts, no pictures or videos. Provided you’ve received an invite code or waited long enough in the queue, users can drop-in to a chat room and join the ongoing conversation on the startup company’s platform. Rooms are typically moderated by the host, who can enable a participant’s microphone when signaled by the contributor.

Censoring Clubhouse Discourse

While the app is currently invite-only, the startup company is seeking to scale its platform and allow everyone the opportunity to join. In China, however, the business is facing resistance. Unadulterated political discourse taking place over the weekend likely led to reports of users in China becoming unable to sign into the app. Discussion of the startup company was also censored on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site. Despite these efforts, users with access to a virtual private network (VPN) can still utilize the platform built by the business.

Outside of China, the startup company is receiving welcome exposure, thanks to Tesla CEO Elon Musk joining the platform. The business reportedly sports a post-money valuation of $1 billion.

About the Author


Headshot for author James White

James White is a Michigan State University graduate with a B.S. in Environmental Biology. He is interested in reporting emerging trends in technology, especially with regard to alternative energy and environmental conservation.

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