Centipede Central, the most influential and active pro-Donald Trump chat room on the internet was taken over and shut down in a self-described "coup" last week, which had the effect of scattering its 16,000 members into several new chat servers and deleting the roughly 6 million messages that were sent over the last year-and-a-half.
"It's a tragic shame. They've completely ruined a great community," Based_Brit, who ran the Centipede Central Discord server for the last month of its existence, told me in a Discord voice chat.
Discord is a chat platform that's kind of a Slack-for-gamers. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, it became a site for political organizing and discussion, especially among the far-right. Centipede Central was the platform's largest and most important Trump server, and perhaps the most important meeting ground for Trump's "meme army."
Centipede Central was born out of the destruction of several other pro-Trump chat servers and became a place where members of the r/the_donald subreddit could have free-er speech. It was a place with a strict hierarchy, where Pepe meme artists were recruited to sub channels, memes were workshopped, and Twitter raids and actions were organized. After the Charlottesville rallies, the server increased rules policing in order to comply with Discord's terms of service following the company's crackdown on several alt-right servers.
But Discord didn't shut down Centipede Central. Instead, it is now gone due to standard internet drama.
In its place, a server called "The Right Server" has been created by a few former administrators of Centipede Central. The new server is not strictly pro-Trump (i.e. criticism of Trump is allowed).
According to two of the mutineers, Americans who go by the names of Hova and Pefimous, they destroyed Centipede Central to wrest control from Based_Brit for three reasons:
- He was sometimes inactive
- He argued for an anime channel on Centipede Central, which some moderators didn't want
- Some moderators did not want a British person running an American political server
"The issue with Based_Brit is he's not American, he's a crypto furry—a closeted furry. He wanted to add anime and NSFW channels. But mostly for us, it's because he was so inactive. Every time we wanted to do something, he would be lazy and not implement it," Hova told me in a voice chat. "On [Centipede Central] we had mod meetings to discuss changes. He wanted to add an anime channel and other admins would constantly delete it."
Based_Brit told me that calling him a furry is "part of their smear campaign," and that he only wanted an anime channel on Centipede Central in order to sequester it away from the more serious chat channels: "If you look at the subreddit the_donald, there are a lot of right winger gamers—it's a common theme—of people who like anime. Personally, I have no issue with it," he said. "This is a channel we had in the past for a long long time. When [the anime channel] was deleted it spills into the other chats and more people get angry. So I said, 'Put it in a channel, contain it.'"
Based_Brit also told me he was inactive for only a short period, and that over the years he had covered for other administrators when they took time away from the site.
Hova and Pefimous described Based_Brit as "mad online" and say he has been banned from the new server for trying to re-recruit members to a newly remade Centipede Central (which currently has just 150 users). They told me that, though Based_Brit was the "owner" of Centipede Central, because they had administrator privileges they were able to easily stage the coup using a Discord tool called Prune, which automatically kicked 11,000 members who hadn't logged into Discord in the last 24 hours. They then manually kicked the remaining members, changed the names of the existing channels in Centipede Central. They used a bot to invite old members of Centipede Central to The Right Server, which currently has 2,300 members.
"The community was dying at a rapid rate," Pefimous said. "If we didn't do anything about it it would die. [Based_Brit] was low energy, lazy, and apathetic about Discord. We just took it all from him. We've given the community new life."
It's literally one person destroying that history. It scatters a lot of people to the wind
That a small group of people was able to destroy a large community is what bothers Based_Brit the most.
"It's literally one person destroying that history. It scatters a lot of people to the wind, and the new server is full of a lot more wacks, a lot more seedy characters," he said. "It's kind of hard not to feel backstabbed, but at the same time, I'm not losing sleep over it. I'm not hugely upset. At the end of the day, it's only Discord."
When I originally noticed Centipede Central had been destroyed, I assumed that Discord had deleted it for violating its terms of service—since its inception it was a place that many people would find unsavory: filled with racist, antisemitic, and misogynistic memes, conspiracy theorists, and people who were involved in the demonstrations in Charlottesville. After Charlottesville, Discord told Motherboard it had been monitoring Centipede Central, but at the time, its previous owner (who goes by .based), told Motherboard that he was taking steps to make sure Centipede Central toed the line.
It turns out, though, that Discord didn't need to do anything to make Centipede Central implode.
"Centipede Central shut itself down before Discord needed to act against any potential violation of Terms of Service," Discord told me in a statement. "We will continue to investigate any reported violation of our ToS and take immediate appropriate action."
But its replacement is no better. One of the most popular channels on The Right Server is an enthusiastic investigation of the Las Vegas shooting as a false flag perpetrated by liberals: "We banned a user for posting congratulations about the shooting," Hova said. As I write this, there is a heated discussion about whether or not the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was an "FBI arms dealer."
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Discord and has been updated to clarify the total number of users on Centipede Central at its peak.