Discussion app Clubhouse appears to have vanished in China, prompting fears it has been blocked by the state’s so-called “Great Firewall”.
The American invite-only app uses audio rather than text to let people chat in rooms.
The audio of users’ chats is not recorded, allowing some degree of privacy – something which thousands of Chinese enjoyed last weekend before the apparent ban hammer was brought down.
The app exploded in popularity in China in recent weeks as unlike many Chinese apps, it is uncensored, so enabling discussions around topics rarely debated online.
But many China-watchers listening in over the weekend questioned how long such open and uncensored conversations would be allowed to continue.
On Monday, thousands of social media users simultaneously reported the app had disappeared.
No official statement about the app – or its potential future in China – has yet been made.
BBC analysts say Clubhouse will have created a headache for Chinese censors, who aren’t especially active during the annual Spring Festival holiday period.
It is not yet clear if Clubhouse has been blocked in China, but more than 100,000 Weibo users on Monday saw posts containing the hashtag #ClubhouseBlocked, before Sina Weibo suddenly started showing “no results” – clear evidence of censorship.
Users all over China shared pictures of their frozen accounts before government censors moved to blanket-block them.
The nationalist Global Times newspaper disputes the suggestion that the app became a “free speech heaven” for China-based users, and instead says users “expressed worries of the platform being used for anti-China propaganda”.