People paying close attention to subreddits may have noticed that a few notable groups quickly migrated to Discord in wake of being banned on Reddit.
The Calm Before the Storm, otherwise known as r/CBTS_stream, is the latest subreddit to be banned for including content that “encourages or incites violence and the posting of personal and confidential information.” The Calm Before the Storm is a subreddit that primarily focused on conspiracy theories circulated by the alt-right. The subreddit, for example, believed in and promoted harmful and untrue “PizzaGate” conspiracy theories. Almost immediately after the subreddit was shut down, the corresponding Twitter account put out a call to action, asking its users to join the respective Discord.
Evidence of wrongdoings in the Calm Before the Storm subreddit, which includes attempts to dox people both on Reddit and Discord and calling for violent attacks against those who disagree with them, has been collected by other Reddit users. Although the subreddit is banned, the Discord continues to operate. Polygon reached out to Discord and Reddit representatives about how closely the two companies work together, considering how many subreddits implement coinciding Discord servers.
“Discord participates in trust and safety conversations with peers across the industry, but can’t comment on specifics,” a Discord representative told Polygon.
It’s not just Calm Before the Storm, either. There’s also Uncensored News, a popular subreddit known for its xenophobic views and anti-Semitic, racist conversations. Many Redditors point to a recent “debate” there over whether Jewish people were more dangerous than Muslims as the reason the subreddit was finally banned.
Yet, like Calm Before the Storm, Uncensored News continues to thrive on Discord. Messages like “save the white race” and swastikas attached to usernames appear throughout, which could be seen by Discord administrators as violating community guidelines. Questions are still swirling about when Discord gets involved. While the company told Polygon in a previous statement it doesn’t read people’s messages, it does investigate any reported incidents. That’s what led to the closure of eight Discord servers known for toxic or racist content, including notable white supremacy hate group like Atomwaffen Division and the Nordic Resistance Movement.
“Discord has a Terms of Service (ToS) and Community Guidelines that we ask all of our communities and users to adhere to,” a Discord representative told Polygon. “These specifically prohibit harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence. Though we do not read people’s private messages, we do investigate and take immediate appropriate action against any reported ToS violation by a server or user. There were a handful of servers that violated these ToS recently and were swiftly removed from the platform.”
Reddit works similarly. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced in November that the company was introducing new rules to tackle hate on its platform. Huffman reiterated how the banning process works when people pointed out that one of Reddit’s most notorious subreddits, The_Donald, hasn’t faced any consequences despite multiple threads that appeared on the subreddit and broke the company’s guidelines.
“Many of these links [from r/The_Donald] are probably in violation of our policy, but most are unreported, which is what alerts the mods and our team, especially when there are few votes,” Huffman said. “We’ll consider them reported now. Typically we ban entire communities only when the mods are uncooperative or the entire premise of the community is in violation of our policies. In the past we have removed mods of the_donald that refuse to work with us.”
Reddit and Discord are said to be working closely with moderators to ensure subreddits and servers don’t contain any rule-breaking content, and relying on reports to do the rest. Discord representatives would not confirm to Polygon if the company works closely with Reddit, and Reddit had not replied to requests for comment at the time of publishing.
“We work closely with our community to address any report of anyone breaking our terms of service or community guidelines and take swift and appropriate action,” Eros Resmini, Discord’s head of marketing, told Polygon in December.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies are learning to branch out and work with one another to try and curb offensive and dangerous behavior. The Fair Play Alliance, an organization of more than 30 game developers, publishers and related companies, recently formed as a way to tackle problematic behavior across multiple games and platforms. The alliance’s goal is to “foster fair play in online games, raise awareness of player-behavior-related issues, and share research and best practices that drive lasting change,” by working with other companies and making research easily accessible.
It’s not just gaming, either. In May 2016, representatives from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft, in conjunction with the European Union, penned a code of conduct to tackle hate speech on their platforms. The Guardian noted at the time that, “The code of conduct represents the first major attempt to codify how technology firms should respond to hate speech online.”
Both Discord and Reddit have become go-to spots for people to congregate and talk, and both are dealing with an influx of users that are becoming more challenging to moderate. It seems clear that Discord and Reddit know they have to do more in eradicating hate speech from their platforms, but it’s unclear if they’ll work together to do so. As Huffman told The New Yorker recently, that means trying to figure out how to battle the messiest parts of humanity.
“For a while, we called ourselves the front page of the Internet ... These days, I tend to say that we’re a place for open and honest conversations — ‘open and honest’ meaning authentic, meaning messy, meaning the best and worst and realest and weirdest parts of humanity.”