Oman blocked the American audio app Clubhouse on Sunday because it did not have the proper permission, authorities said, but some activists described the move as a further erosion of free speech in the Gulf state.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the telecoms regulator told the WAF news website that the app was blocked due to a “lack of proper authorization.”
“Similar communications applications must obtain permission from the authority,” said the Oman Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
Oman_blocks_Clubhouse was trending on social media in Oman on Sunday. Many Omanis shared screenshots of the app showing an “error message.”
“The government of Oman takes the authoritarian government of China as a role model and prohibits … Clubhouse which has been used by Omanis as a space to express their opinions freely without government censorship,” said the Omani Association for Human Rights it’s a statement.
Access to the clubhouse was blocked in China last month.
Launched in early 2020, the San Francisco-based app saw the number of global users skyrocket after Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev held a surprise discussion on the platform.
The app has been popular in Arab countries where the media is directly controlled by governments and commentators run the risk of being jailed for critical opinions.
Clubhouse has faced criticism elsewhere for reports of COVID-19 misogyny, anti-Semitism, and misinformation on the platform despite rules against racism, hate speech, abuse, and misinformation.
The app has said it is investing in tools to detect and prevent abuse, as well as features for users, who can set rules for their rooms, to moderate conversations.
“I hope that the suspension of the Clubhouse application in Oman is the result of technical problems and not a formal ban,” Omani writer Zakaria al-Muharrmi tweeted.
“Preventing people from speaking and listening to others does not protect societies, but increases tensions and pushes them into the abyss of chaos and confrontation.”