The voice-based application Clubhouse, weeks ago, it was announced that the invite-only app was estimated to have a $1 billion valuation.
The hottest new platform on the block is the voice-based application Clubhouse. Weeks ago, it was announced that the invite-only app was estimated to have a $1 billion valuation.
Clubhouse, which is currently only available for iOS users, is unique in that it allows users to have direct access to influencers, public figures, celebrities and even billionaires in a way that is unlike any other social media platform currently out. The app launched in March, which was an ideal time with so many people home due to the pandemic.
With the excitement that has accompanied the new app, some worry that Clubhouse, which is still technically in beta mode, may be stifling voices that need to be heard. “I started noticing that people were getting censored,” shares MarQuis Trill, who is an entrepreneur, investor and business consultant who has amassed nearly 30,000 followers on the app. Trill has over 12 million followers across all his social media accounts and has collaborated with tech behemoths like Facebook and Google. Trill sat down with Forbes to share his experiences on Clubhouse and offers suggestions for how the app can create a more equitable and enjoyable environment for all users.
“So…you have the original early adopters. You have the people that are young, they just utilizing the app for fun…then you have the multi-millionaires, the people that made millions of dollars from doing e-funnels, and websites and selling .coms…then you’re going to have the celebrities that are going to come. They haven’t even really got here yet. You have Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, but they make small appearances…from my experiences, there’s a lot of conversations between everyone trying to fight for the audience.
And [there’s] not enough audience on the app, because Clubhouse curates everything. And what I mean by curate is that they put you in a category of what you’re speaking about and your titles, and who follows you, and what’s your network.”
Clubhouse users are encouraged to follow individuals that speak on topics that resonate with them. At any given time during the day, there are rooms on a range of topics from marriage and relationship advice and entrepreneurship, to race relations, holistic health and everything in between. Many users found the app refreshing because of the ability to speak freely about different subjects, especially those deemed more controversial, but the question still remains whether users are actually able to speak freely on the app.
“They’re monitoring what people are saying and how they’re saying things. I know a few people that got their accounts suspended,” Trill explains. A constant struggle that the app has faced is ensuring that all users feel safe on the platform. Some have complained about the app’s moderation tools, which may not allow for fully controlling large conversations.
Claims that the app allows anti-Semitism and racism have found their way into the public conversation. What’s noteworthy about Clubhouse is that amidst claims of racism, Black users have curated a distinct culture on the app. “Majority of the people that use the app are Black,” Trill indicates. “I think there’s about 60%-65% of the users [that] are Black.”
Though the app has a lot of potential and could be the next big thing, more must be done to ensure the safety of its users, especially those from marginalized communities. There must also be safeguards to make sure that users can speak freely about and moderate contentious topics. The app makes it too easy to weaponize the block button and use it en masse against any individual that a person doesn’t like. “Well, there’s definitely censorship, and they’re a brand-new app,” says Trill.
“They haven’t been around long. They grew too fast. I’m sure they didn’t have more than 15 employees. You know? I got my account deleted…we were curating a room to teach people how to moderate…so, I was the example, but since you have an audience of new people coming in and out of the room, they didn’t know that I was the actual creator of the club that they were in and they were watching. So, they reported me…and then within two, three hours, my account was banned… I sent out numerous emails to the support team…never got anything back, even to this day.
I’m back on the app due to my large Twitter following and [my followers] tweeting [the founders] over a thousand times…I got my account back that same day. But to the smaller users and the people that haven’t got an answer back, that had been waiting for weeks…that is a problem because…we don’t know what we can and what we can’t say on the application.”
When reflecting on the success of the app thus far, Trill goes on to say “Clubhouse was built [by] Black people at the end of the day. When the tech Silicon Valley people were on it, it was not popular. When Oprah was on it, and Gary Vee or whoever, Mark Zuckerberg, whoever was on it, it wasn’t popular.
Didn’t get popular until the music industry jumped on board, didn’t get popular until the Black community got on the app. Once we got on the app, Black Twitter got ahold of it, and then it just went viral from there…so the Clubhouse app is built on the backs of Black people. We deserve some seat at the table, at the end of the day. And I can’t speak too much on what they’re doing, because they might be working with some Black people behind the scenes, but we just don’t know…but it’s like, they’re not working with the right ones because we would know…it would impact the culture and someone could speak about it.
Somebody would be on stage in the town halls—we would know. And you need to make that known…it doesn’t need to be a secret. You need to let the community know…let the culture know that you’re working with people like us so we can feel safe on the platform. We can feel like we’re not getting used, or we can feel like somebody is in there that speaks our language. They need to curate the culture while they have it…they need to provide some type of security and some safeness so we can be able to use the app, and be comfortable using the app.”
Originally published at Forbes