Discord is purging alt-right, white nationalist and hateful servers

Atomwaffen Division logo.
Atomwaffen Division

Atomwaffen Division, The Right Server, Nordic Resistance Movement, Iron March and European Domas are just some of the servers that were shut down recently as part of Discord’s attempt to purge its platform of hateful content.

“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.”

A representative from Discord didn’t tell Polygon when the purge first started, but Discord users noted the disappearance of notable servers over the past couple of days. A thread on the Discord subreddit acknowledging the servers’ disappearance was locked by a Discord staff member. Each of the servers affected — TRS, Atomwaffen, Nordic Resistance Movement, Uncesnsored politics , Ironmarch, Pagan Pathway, European Domus and Fashlash — are known for curating content that promotes hateful ideologies and pro-Nazism. Atomwaffen Division, for example, is labeled as a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Atomwaffen Division (AWD) is a terroristic national socialist organization that formed out of Iron March, an influential fascist forum that went offline in September 2017,” a description by the Center reads. “Members, who can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world.”

Discord and the Southern Poverty Law Center are working together to try and rid the platform of hateful groups, a Discord representative said. The purge comes at a time when the Center is asking other platforms like YouTube to take a tougher stance on the platform that appears on its side. Atomwaffen Division’s presence on YouTube has come under scrutiny recently, with YouTube announcing today that it will ban content from active users who identify as Atomwaffen Division members.

“Discord’s decision to condemn and ban far-right servers in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a welcome example of the commitment required to combat hate in the technology space,” Heidi Beirich, who heads up the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Polygon in a statement. “Other tech companies who struggle with these same issues should know it’s always the right policy decision to reject organized hatred.”

This isn’t the first time that Discord has worked to rid its platform of hateful servers and users. Discord released a statement following violent rally organized by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, condemning users spreading hateful messages.

“We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs,” the company said in a statement. “They are not welcome on Discord. While we don’t read people’s private servers, our Terms of Service explicitly forbid harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence.”

One of the more aggressive servers at the time, Centipede Central, was brought to the company’s attention. Despite reports of hateful content and messages being spread on the platform, the server remains active.

“The team has confirmed that they are aware of Centipede Central and will take action if they find CC is in violation of their terms of service and/or community guidelines,” a Discord representative told Polygon at the time. “Discord takes a firm stand against this type of behavior on the platform.”

Some of the moderators from Centipede Central were instrumental in creating The Right Server, which one person told Polygon in October was designed to get away from the hateful ideology being spread on Centipede Central and exist as a gathering place for conservatives. The server seemed to become more challenging to moderate over the past few months as it grew in size. Discord in general has experienced exponential growth in the past year, gaining close to 75 million users in one year. Eros Resmini, Discord’s chief marketing officer, told Polygon at the time the company was working on better addressing users reports and safety concerns.

“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,” Resmini said. “Our team continues to grow as our user base does and our commitment to keeping Discord a positive place for gamers to connect is unwavering.”

Invite links to the eight aforementioned servers are being bounced back with notices that the invitation has expired. Polygon has reached out to Discord for more information over whether specific users are also being banned from the platform.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified The Right Server as The New Right. The story has been corrected to reflect these changes.

Comments

I think this a great first start, but how will the keep groups from reforming with names like, "Aren’t kitty cats great?" Will there be a ban on certain accounts from creating groups? (Spoiler alert: I don’t know how Discord works)

It’s gonna be whack-a-mole, just like any other platform. I’ve been a member of a server dedicated to cheating on a certain online game and it’s been shut down several times. Eventually it just isn’t worth it and people move on.

I think many people don’t understand just how effective the whack-a-mole strategy really is… by constantly forcing the groups to re-rally and set up communications hubs, they end up hemorrhaging the more moderate and newer "recruits" before they can become fully indoctrinated. As well as the obvious benefit of making it much less likely that someone new enters those communities in the first place.

the only way to stay on top of it is to study far-right dog whistles so that you know what to look for, and that means trawling the places where they communicate out in the open, like twitter, and cross-referencing their new slang in their clandestine meeting places like discord and IRC servers

Didn’t the statement say they aren’t viewing peoples’ messages though? Unless people infiltrate those groups and then report them, how does Discord know that they’re using those dog whistles?

I don’t know the full answer, but hands-down people are infiltrating these groups.

That’s why they’re working with the SPLC. They closely follow the groups and splinter groups migration around the internet.

People have to get directed to the discord server somehow. As stated above, they are working with the SPLC and other groups that keep an eye on hate groups.

no idea how Discord in particular does it. i’m sure they’re not above reading the general chats of private servers but just don’t dive into direct messages between users

besides monitoring and documenting tips from people willing to infiltrate these thigns are probably a big factor. infiltration takes a lot of time and dedication, though, so usually only dedicated groups like the SPLC and local antifa chapters will bother with that shit (most of what antifa does is monitoring, documenting, and infiltration, in fact) and report their findings on websites or social media so that others can act on it

I think that even if they come back under inconspicuous names, chatter in other public spaces is inevitable and will allow the servers to be found out. It’s also pretty easy from a technology level to tag and perma-ban some of these people or track when they’re gathering on select channels.

Let’s also not underestimate moles who have been instrumental in a lot of the reporting on what these groups have been up to and exposing what they say in otherwise private channels.

In all likelihood these people will abandon Discord and Twitter when it becomes too inconvenient, and just find or launch new services like Gab, which explicitly protect hate speech as a core tenement.

That Atomwaffen logo likes like something a dumbass metalhead teenager would draw in his notebook.

They are nazi satanists after all.

that would be quite contradictory to what satanism actually is

"Members, who can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world."

Based on their logo and their ideology, they belong in a Fallout game.

Good. It’s about time… but I think they were a little too slow to do that. They need to do better.

Got ’em.

Great, so now instead of chatting in the open, they’ll go underground and people will think that the problem is solved because they don’t see hate-speech anymore. Seems counter-intuitive to me.

I understand the motives behind shutting down hate-speech, and that Discord has every right to do so, but it just means that these people will now meet elsewhere, possibly through encrypted channels, where we can’t even know these sorts of discussions are taking place and we’ll be even less able to deal with these people.

At least when it happened in public we knew it was taking place and we could interact with the community and move the needle towards decency. Now they’ll be even harder to reach.

"harder to reach" also means "harder to join". The advantage of public discussion is that it’s easier to bring in new people. If they have to meet in some back alley of the dark web, they’re only going to be able to attract people who are already there, who will most likely just be the other nazis that got forced to go there. I’ve seen several stories of these types using their discord servers to indoctrinate vulnerable people into their movements because it’s easy and benign to hand someone a discord link and say "hey, come talk to us, we’ll listen and support you", but it’s much harder to say "Hey, get an onion router and watch on this dummy website for an IP address to appear where we’ll meet in an encrypted chatroom and speak only in obscure jargon so as to not get found out".

I already don’t see the hate speech of these things because I’m not a part of their private discord server, so in a way, they were already kind of hidden. IMO, this is an overall good move. I’m unconcerned with my ability to have discourse with nazis in an attempt to move them towards decency.

I’d like to argue against the "ignore them and let them be public so we can see what they’re up to" line of thought.

While on the surface I think the line of reasoning holds some weight – as you said, we risk forgetting about them because we can’t see them – I think that letting hate groups flourish out in the open will only attract more members. As the other commenter said, "harder to reach means harder to join".

Also, my general line of thinking is that hate groups deserve to be stomped out and fought against, rather than just observed. I doubt most of these people could be "moved towards decency". They’re beyond that and deserve to be treated as such.

Good.

If they have less ability to meet in public they have less venue to make people listen to their bullshit.

Joining in the above replies because this is one of those often espoused lines of thought on the matter that appeals to ‘common sense’, when the reality just doesn’t shake out that way. I don’t mean to pile on you specifically, but I feel that it is important to address this notion thoroughly so that more people can understand the problems with it.

Taking away easily accessible spaces for people to spread hateful ideologies does, of course, drive those who are balls-deep committed into more ‘underground’ spaces. It will also not change the opinions of these same people. That part of the argument stacks up.

What it does achieve is this:

  • Removes the venue (obviously), which is a powerful enough thing on its own in cases where multiple, linked spaces are not established. If there isn’t already a backup site to move to it can take time to prepare one, and the more time lost, the more of the lesser involved people are lost (see next point).
  • Fractures the community, meaning that those not deeply enough involved will not easily be able to move on to the next venue (if one already exists.) This can have the effect of throwing a reset switch in a way, and can shed all but the most involved people.
  • Makes it harder to recruit, and then indoctrinate and radicalise, new people. With fewer visible, accessible venues to meet and groom folk that are already like-minded, or vulnerable enough to latch on to any offers of solidarity despite any potential concerns of the groups views / behaviour, these hateful ideologies cannot spread and grow as easily.
  • Helps spread the message that these views will not be tolerated. If you not only do not provide a platform to host these views, but also explicitly state that they are not welcome and will not be tolerated, it can help to move those on the periphery (but trending inwards) out of becoming involved. It also helps reinforce the message to those that these groups target that they are valued, and their attackers will not be tolerated.

Finally, as to the idea that these things need to be allowed into the open and debated: To say this is to say that these ideas have merit worthy of debate, which does little else than to legitimise these views.

Not sure about those last couple points. I think the victimhood from censorship angle has given them a narrative to reach out to more people, and the removal rather than critique of this stuff has handed them more legitimacy. I think Discord is completely in the right as a private company to do it though.

Just how many articles I’ve seen around general news sites only talking about clamping down on alt-right groups/people has given them more publicity then I ever remember neo-nazis/white supremacists getting in the past. Then you have groups like Antifa, who paint with a broad brush who is even in the alt-right, and show up to tiny alt-right events barely anyone would be paying attention to. The two sides will butt heads, some violence will happen, and boom…more coverage and attention to extremists.

Those who feel disenfranchised, victimised, powerless are already fertile recruiting ground for groups like that, so yeah I think that in a way this could amplify that pull in some ways. However you have to consider that in the same act the very reasoning for the action is right there for all to see; It could be spun in a way to suggest ‘we did nothing wrong, we’re victims’, but it’s harder for that to stand up to scrutiny when there are readily available news pieces / releases explaining the reality of the matter.

Those who go in wanting someone to share their already formed bigotry (etc.) will not be so easily dissuaded, but the ones who are just looking for someone who understands that they have it tough – the ones that need to be gradually exposed to the hate, and have it built up into them? They’re the ones most likely to be turned away by this, and that’s important.

I’m not sure how much reality of the matter is being explained now though. With more media being hyper-partisan, and will cater to your tastes it’s easier to get sucked into a bubble of false information. I think some media outlets have also painted with the same broad brush antifa does when labeling people alt-right.

For example, I see from enough publications that Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro are labeled alt-right, even though the former is a psychology professor with classes talking about the horrors of Hitler’s fascism, and the latter is an orthodox jew that got targeted by the alt-right for harassment. I just see information now getting more muddled, I see way more guilt by association arguments thrown around, as well as more criticism of white privilege that I think can breed resentment…which then can turn more extreme.

I guess in my view either ignoring the alt-right or critiquing their crap ideas is more effective than trying to silence or remove them from platforms. Even though I’d label myself a moderate liberal, I see conservative and liberatarian friends get maligned online for pretty milktoast views that don’t remotely touch the authoritarian ethno-state of the alt-right.

I do think places like The Knife Media are helpful though, because they aim to display bias or spin, separate out factual information, and even rank larger news outlets on how little or much they distort the information.

At least when it happened in public we knew it was taking place and we could interact with the community and move the needle towards decency. Now they’ll be even harder to reach.

If you’re an alt-right, white nationalist in 2018, there is zero chance anyone is going to be able to reach you. You’re lost forever.

I’d rather these idiots stay underground so I don’t have to see their hate speech.

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