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Daily News Analysis

Clubhouse - a new app with potential?

Crescent International

A new social application, Clubhouse, is likely to further reduce the influence of traditional radio and even the podcast industry.

Just like preceding social media applications, Clubhouse will also attract special attention of autocratic regimes and other state entities.

Clubhouse is an invite only social media platform which the Guardian describes as a conversation room just like a conference call.

Those old enough to remember Paltalk will immediately see some key similarities between Paltalk and Clubhouse.

Additionally, the new application can also be described as a podcast or radio service where listeners can engage with the hosts, called moderators, in a live setting using their voices.

The app’s function of allowing its users to engage with each other using their actual voice instead of typing responses, gives Clubhouse an edge and a sense of authenticity.

Nevertheless, just like other social media platforms, authenticity is more often a mirage than reality.

The ability of users to create open and closed discussion rooms, where users can converse with each other in a live setting, attracts many users from West Asian countries governed by Western backed authoritarian regimes.

The popularity of Clubhouse among ordinary people has already got some autocratic regimes worried.

On May 29, the Washington based al-monitor.com published a report pointing out how security sources and social media activists in Egypt feared that the “Muslim Brotherhood could exploit the Clubhouse app to promote its ideas and recruit new operatives in Egypt.”

From a technical perspective, fears of the autocratic regimes like the one in Egypt are ill founded.

Many Clubhouse users receive an invite to their actual phone number and their Clubhouse profile identifies the person who referred them to the app.

This gives Western-backed dictatorships in West Asia an advantage to track opponents and their wider social network.

While the new social media application will not serve as an extraordinary platform, like other social media platforms, it will level the media playing field worldwide.

In the Muslim world, it will further undermine the influence of state broadcasters.

However, NATO-backed autocratic regimes which control state security institutions will attempt to manipulate the new application not only in technical terms, but most likely in its usage, as has happened with other social media platforms.

While the new application has great potential to facilitate discussion between different worldviews and perspectives, its virtual room-based approach also creates an environment perfect for an intellectual echo-chamber.

Many users on Clubhouse today enter rooms which appeal to their already established beliefs and outlooks, thus limiting the platform’s potential to act as a vehicle for education.

In a broader sense, the new application can become a bridge between civilizations and societies, but it will not become a bridge between people living under dictatorships like those in Egypt or Saudi Arabia and the ruling elites.

For regimes in Riyadh and Cairo and others of their ilk, Clubhouse will be mainly of interest as a tool to monitor people.

Nevertheless, the new app’s growing popularity and usage gives marginalized socio-political groups an opportunity to have greater exposure and explain themselves to the masses directly and in a conversational format.

How exactly the new app will continue to develop is yet to be seen but it will certainly create another media space in the battle of narratives and soft power appeal.

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