The Brief: Discord is a voice, video, and text chat app that is popular among gamers.
Discord has over 13o million users with around 14 million daily players and 315 million messages sent per day. It is designed as space for gamers to communicate about strategy, fandom, lore, and more. Users can create or join servers to communicate with people they know IRL, or anonymously with strangers who have shared interests.
The app is free. Users can purchase digital accessories within the app or pay to subscribe to Discord Nitro for access to games and/or accessories.
In addition to game-related chats, Discord users can create chats around any topic, such as anime, memes, and computer coding.
2017: Discord and Charlottesville
Before Charlottesville, Discord was host several prominent overtly racist white supremacist and neo-Nazi chats. The platform likely appealed to members of these hate groups because of the anonymity Discord allows for. In private invitation-only group chats, admin and moderator members make the rules, potentially making room for hate speech that would be censored on other platforms.
White nationalists used Discord to organize the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville Virginia at which a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. After Charlottesville, Discord purged many of these groups from the app, as they did not follow terms of service and community guidelines prohibiting harassment, threats, and calls to violence.
When asked about these purges, a Discord spokesperson told The Verge: “Though we do not monitor private messages, we do investigate and take immediate appropriate action against any reported violations.” Attorneys for a civil suit brought on by counter-protesters injured in the Charlottesville attacks have filed a subpoena for Discord messages and account information related to the organization of the rallies. A judge ruled that attorneys could look at user information but not messages to search for potential witnesses or co-conspirators.