Private social audio app Clubhouse is attracting masses of new users from mainland China, where the U.S. app remains uncensored by authorities despite flourishing discussions on rights, national identity and other sensitive topics.
Western social media apps including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are banned in China, where the local internet is tightly censored to weed out content that could undermine the ruling communist party.
The Clubhouse app, launched in early 2020, saw explosive growth in user numbers earlier this month after Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev held a surprise discussion on the platform.
Its chat rooms are only accessible via invites from current members, and as of Sunday, invites to the platform were selling for between 50-400 yuan ($7.73 – $69.59) on popular Chinese e-commerce sites.
China’s cyber authorities have become increasingly strict in recent years, widening the scope of apps, media outlets and social media sites banned in the country.
While Clubhouse remains uncensored, it is only available on iOS devices and is unavailable in the local Apple app store, both major barriers for its widespread use in China.
Mainland Chinese users can access the app by modifying the location of their app store.
It’s unclear why the app remains unblocked in China, though some foreign social sites with small Chinese followings manage to operate under the radar of censors, including 8kun, a central hub for QAnon followers.