Turkey Program Coordinator Merve Tahiroğlu wrote a commentary, “On Turkish Clubhouse, a brief experiment in a more open web,” that appeared on Brookings’ TechStream blog on Friday. In the piece, Tahiroğlu charts the rise and fall of Clubhouse in Turkey and comments on the difficulties of using social media to exercise free speech.

When students at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, Turkey’s top academic institution, gathered in January to protest President Recep Tayyip’s Erdoğan’s eleventh-hour appointment by fiat of a government loyalist as their new rector, they turned to a new platform to take their message beyond the walls of their campus. Clubhouse was still in beta, only available on iPhones and by invitation, when Turkish student protesters discovered it. But it allowed up to 5,000 people to join chat rooms in which they could converse with strangers in a user-moderated audio discussion. The app became a hub of opposition politics and students began to host discussions about Erdoğan’s abuses of power. Thousands across the country flocked into chat rooms to listen to protesters’ stories—often in hours-long discussions deep into the night. Activists and lawyers joined to offer advice, journalists to find sources, and many others just to stay informed. By the end of January, the app had grown so popular that even the country’s 62-year-old former prime minister-turned-opposition leader Ahmet Davutoğlu was scheduling talks on Clubhouse.

But this brief experiment in a free-wheeling corner of the web was not to last.

Read the full piece here.

Photo Credit: Brookings / TechStream