Discord, a Slack-like chat app originally designed for gamers and the birthplace of some of the internet's most vile memes, announced today that it would take action against hateful rhetoric on its servers.
Several of Discord's popular chat servers have made a name for themselves as a safe haven for white supremacists and those bearing the "alt-right" banner. Not all of Discord is populated by Nazi propaganda (in fact, much of it is delightful), but as the app grew to over 25 million users, Discord has faced criticism for not acting quickly or strongly enough to combat rampant hate speech.
Monday, Discord tweeted that it has shut down the altright.com server, which was created in June by the white nationalist website. Richard Spencer is the American Editor of altright.com, where he published a racist "Charlottesville Statement" prior to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. Other Discord channels that promoted the rally, like the popular r/The_Donald offshoot channel Centipede Central, are still online. Discord told Motherboard that it is "aware" of Centipede Central, and the head moderator of the channel said it's preparing for a crackdown.
"Today, we've shut down the altright.com server and a number of accounts associated with the events in Charlottesville," Discord said in a tweet. "We will continue to take action against white supremacy, nazi ideology, and all forms of hate."
I asked Discord whether the company has plans to address other servers' participation in the white supremacist rally and the terror attack in Charlottesville over the weekend—namely Centipede Central.
"We have no further comment on any additional servers or users we are removing right now but we are aware of Centipede Central," Eros Resmini, CMO of Discord, told me in an emailed statement. "We can share that when we are made aware of violations of our community guidelines via any channel, we take immediate action and investigate the server and/or individuals."
Resmini also provided a statement regarding the shutdown of altright.com's server:
"We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs. ... We will continue to be aggressive to ensure that Discord exists for the community we set out to support—gamers."
A Centipede Central admin posted an announcement in the server following Discord's statements, explaining that anyone breaking Discord's Terms of Service would be removed. Members' reactions ran the gamut:
The lead admin for Centipede Central, who goes by the name Based, told Motherboard that Discord developers showed up in their server today. "I think they're monitoring, weighing whether or not they're going to let us stay or not," Based said in a voice chat. "They're going to have to draw a line somewhere. I'm banking on them drawing the line—we're the limit of where they're willing to let political servers go. We're not going to be encouraging violence or glorifying it."
Though there are "a lot of users in our server who identify as white nationalists," Based said, they aren't planning to drive them out unless they start supporting or inciting violence.
The difference between the posts in Centipede Central and the altright.com server is that the altright server's users support the driver of the car that killed one person and injured several others at the rally, Based said. "From my perspective, it looks to me like he murdered or was trying to murder people, and that's completely outside what I would consider good behavior or anything you want to associate with. We're taking a hard line against that kind of stuff. I don't care what side you're on—right or left, you shouldn't have to worry about getting beat up."
Based said that while the Centipede Central server did have an announcement about the Unite the Right rally, admins didn't know it would become violent. "I don't think any of us had an inclination it would be a tiki torch march down the middle of campus and a day of extreme violence."
Based added that admins are telling members to "friend" the staff of the channel on Discord, so that if the server is shut down, they can regroup in a new channel. "We've been on discord for over a year and a half now—if they shut us down, we'll regroup on discord and do some things different if we can to stay alive."
Jason Koebler contributed reporting.