When the private social app Clubhouse debuted in March last year, it was difficult for most people to get an invitation. In the summer, the limited launch aroused people’s curiosity and endless chat, especially with the creation of accounts by celebrities in music, entertainment and technology. Even Oprah showed up. On the application, users hosted an impromptu informal conversation, in which they could talk to hundreds of listeners, like a large conference call, but more interesting.

To join Clubhouse, existing members need to invite people. In the summer, when the app attracted thousands of users, it seemed that there was still one group missing: reporters.

A spokeswoman for the clubhouse said that the company never excludes journalists, but many users say that the rules of the service and its name create a culture of exclusivity and confidentiality. In most cases, after users shared audio clips on Twitter and in Clubhouse meeting rooms elsewhere, people found particularly controversial or intense conversations. But Clubhouse’s terms of service clearly stipulate that it is against the rules to share what happens on the Clubhouse outside of the Clubhouse.

This is an annoying sense of privacy that leads to fun and whimsical moments on the app, such as a lullaby meeting or a reenactment of the Lion King. But this feeling also promotes darker conversations that are suspected of being homophobic or taking an anti-Semitist twist.

With the explosive growth of Clubhouse, these two opposing dynamics (which bring people together but make them different) have been magnified in the last two months. Its founder said on Sunday that the app has 2 million users, a huge increase from a few months ago. This week, investors including Andreessen Horowitz valued the service, which has not been established for a year, at US$1 billion (approximately Rs 73 billion). According to Axios, the startup raised US$100 million (about Rs 7.3 billion) in a round of financing.

At the same time, it hosted a hot topic conversation with news publishers: Earlier this month, the San Francisco District Attorney joined a lively discussion about urban crime. A few days later, the mayors of Miami, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas all joined a digital clubhouse panel to discuss their cities with thousands of listeners and select them as candidates for technology pandemic areas.

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None of these events are open to the public. But they are not completely private. In the past few months, as the popularity of Clubhouse has grown, more and more reporters and editors have found their way in the app. Some of them chronicled the increasing number of high-level discussions on the platform and the controversy over harassment and content review by the young company.

The reporters did not arrive at the club by accident. Many of them are coveted by the club’s specific users, research and development consultant, and former entertainment lawyer Sarah Szalavitz. Since October, Szalavitz will invite as many reporters as possible to join Clubhouse as his personal mission. This is part of her quest to bring transparency to the application, which she believes is designed to foster hate speech and activism without taking appropriate mitigation measures.

Zarawiez said that so far, she and her friends have brought hundreds of reporters to the Clubhouse, and the latter has helped hundreds of reporters. According to her estimates, at the beginning of this year, at least 1,800 people joined the app, and from her statistics, this number is around 275 in October.

Sazavez also taught social design at the MIT Media Lab, and she said she had seen Facebook. Twitter tends to punish bad guys “with enough media attention.” Her thoughts on Clubhouse are simple: “The way to make changes is to get the public’s attention,” she said.

At first, Sazavez refused to join the club. She had read that the New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz wrote about the company in May. She is one of the few reporters on the platform, but the venture capitalists complained about major issues. After the news report, the app was harassed. But as the pandemic spread, Szalavitz and her fiance Sonaar Luthra began to feel more lonely at their Los Angeles home. Their friends are joining Clubhouse. So in the fall, they tried it.

Szalavitz said that immediately, she felt closer to her friends and started to talk to people in the expanded network. Compared to a Zoom party, hearing someone’s voice without seeing their face is more interesting and embarrassing. She and Luthra started hosting daily rooms on Clubhouse for those who used to provide telephone banking services for the then-U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden. People can intervene and suggest how to participate or share The question of experience.

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But Szalavitz also noted that the app appears to be designed to limit the spread of conversations outside of his digital wall. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, the application does not leave any records. Clubhouse’s terms of service prohibit recording room audio unless everyone there agrees-it’s almost impossible for a chat room that can accommodate thousands of people. In order to get an invitation to send to a friend, users must share their contact list with the company. Many journalists are reluctant to disclose their source of information, but will not do so. Szalavitz said: “This is a platform designed to evade accountability.”

As she spends more and more time on the app, she finds that there are disagreements active on Clubhouse, such as the blogger Curtis Yarvin, whose ideas inspired alternative right-wing leaders. After she and others raised concerns about moderation in the virtual “town hall” of the club’s founder, she felt frustrated when the company did not take decisive action.

A spokeswoman for the clubhouse said that the app prohibits racism, hate speech and abuse, and moderation has always been a top priority. She listed modest features, including the ability to block specific users and mark rooms for further investigation.

At first, Szalavitz was willing to wait to see what policies the Clubhouse team might add on its own. But soon after joining Yom Kippur, her attitude changed. That day, she hosted an all-day chat room about atonement. Later that night, another discussion room appeared, called “Anti-Semitism and Black Culture,” where the speakers made anti-Semitism metaphors. Jewish listeners pointed out that since the conversation took place on the holiest day of the year, some speakers’ statements were even more painful. Bloomberg News and other media reported the details of the conversation, but Sazavez knew that it could easily be slipped away if there was no public discussion. She believes that the application needs more responsibility, and she feels that she cannot expect it to come from the Clubhouse itself.

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So she started sending messages directly to reporters on Twitter, sending them club invitations, and with the help of her fiancé Luthra, explaining the app to recruits over the phone, one or two at a time. Tatiana Walk-Morris, a journalist brought by Szalavitz, wrote a fascinating article on Vanity Fair about how the design of the app allowed racism and Islamophobia (even by well-known users) to flourish.

The attention of the media raises the question of how private applications that only invite users to use should be reasonable, especially when the speakers are outstanding. “I understand [Clubhouse’s founders] I hope it will become more intimate and allow people to speak more freely and honestly. “Wal-Morris said. “But it seems to have caused confusion between who is a public figure and who is not. “

Saravez is not sure whether her invitation will really bring tangible results, not just casual news reports about the clubhouse. She wants to know whether she is achieving or achieving her goal. “Can journalism solve this problem, or does it complicate it?” she said. “Am I bringing them more public relations as their unpaid staff?”

Leigh Honeywell, CEO of Tall Poppy, said it is difficult to know how to put pressure on emerging startups like Clubhouse, which helps employers protect their workers from online harassment. She said: “They don’t have advertisers, they haven’t started monetization yet, they have a lot of money.” But Honeywell is also a friend of Sakravits, he said, regardless of whether the increase in the number of Clubhouse reporters brings policy Changes, it should all enable people to better understand the conversations that take place on platforms frequently visited by celebrities. Technology, and more and more politics and media.

Szalavitz said of the app’s most controversial speech: “The more reporters you see there, the less likely they will allow it.” “I’ve never encountered a more addictive or more addictive An aggressive application, or an application that promotes immediate intimacy.”

©2021 Bloomberg

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