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China users say no longer able to access Clubhouse app, raise Great Firewall fears

Mainland China users of the U.S. audio app Clubhouse said on Monday they were experiencing internet access disruptions, stoking concerns that the popular app has been blocked by China’s so-called Great Firewall.

Users of China’s Twitter-like social media app Weibo began posting that they were having issues accessing the Clubhouse app at around 7:30 p.m. local time (1130 GMT).

Some posted screenshots of a message the app displayed when they tried to open it, which said “an SSL error has occurred and a secure connection to the server cannot be made.”

The Clubhouse app had in recent days attracted masses of new users from mainland China, who took part in discussions on topics that included sensitive ones like Xinjiang detention camps, Taiwan independence and Hong Kong’s National Security Law.

Many users had over the weekend marveled on social media about how the app was still accessible in China.

Many Western social media apps including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are banned in China, where the local internet is tightly regulated and often censored for content that could undermine the country’s ruling Communist Party.

Clubhouse did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, did not respond to phonecalls made outside its office hours.

“Clubhouse has been walled” said one Weibo user, referring to the system China uses to regulate its internet.

“This is just too fast,” said another.

Launched in early 2020, Clubhouse saw explosive growth in global 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.

Nearly 3,000 users opened a room to discuss whether Clubhouse had been blocked by Chinese censors shortly after reports of the internet disruptions started trickling out, with some expressing concerns that authorities could be monitoring discussions.

Some users urged others not to panic yet, given the lack of clarity over China’s censors had indeed blocked the app.

“Let bullets fly for a while. Let’s monitor for a few days first, don’t panic yet,” one user said. Reuters

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