After a brief honeymoon, China appears to have blocked a popular, invite-only audio app called Clubhouse.
The iPhone-only app had seen a surge in users over the weekend as users were able to discuss taboo topics like reunification with Taiwan and the plight of the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province.
But on Monday, users began reporting difficulty connecting, fueling speculation the app had been blocked by the so-called Great Firewall.
According to Bloomberg, Clubhouse was a hot topic on Chinese social media, and some were even selling invitations to the app on Alibaba’s online retailer. Some of the invites were going for as much as $44.60, according to Bloomberg.
As with many banned apps, Chinese users can still access Clubhouse using a virtual private network (VPN), and CNN reported that many were doing so. One such user was Susan Liang, a 31-year-old from Shenzhen.
"It is too rare an opportunity. Everyone has lived under the Great Firewall for so long, but on this platform, we can talk about anything," she told CNN. "It's like someone drowning and can finally breathe in a large gulp of air."
She said she feared a crackdown as VPNs not approved by the government are illegal.
Clubhouse has so far not responded to media inquiries, Reuters reported.