Discord deleted thousands of 'violent extremist' servers last year

(Image credit: Discord)

Discord purged over 1,500 servers for instances of violent extremism in the latter half of 2020, the chat client maker revealed in a new transparency report released this week.

Covering the period between July and December of last year, Discord naturally saw a surge in users as the Covid-19 pandemic settled in for the long haul—from 100 million monthly active users in June to 140 million in December. But with more folks on Discord than ever, the company has also found itself booting more users and servers off its platform.

Admittedly, these deletions are overwhelmingly hitting spam accounts. Over 3 million accounts removed for spam behaviour, followed by exploitative content and harassment. Servers, meanwhile, were more likely to be shuttered for broader links to cybercrime—but the latter half of 2020 also saw a sharp rise in the number of servers deleted for violent extremism.

Discord explains that it's been taking further action against militarized movements like the "Boogaloo Boys", one of the groups that stormed the US Capitol earlier this year. 334 servers related to the QAnon conspiracy movement were also canned. Ultimately, 1,504 servers were removed for violent extremism, a staggering 93% increase over the first half of the year.

It's a solid effort from Discord, but not enough to shake far right extremists entirely. Activist group Unicorn Riot uncovered 18 servers frequented by participants in February's riots (via NPR)—and prior to the Charlottesville "Unite The Riot" rally in 2017, the New York Times called Discord "the alt-right’s favourite chat app". It wasn't until after that rally that Discord started taking serious measures against extremist groups.

NPR notes that this transparency report doesn't paint the full picture on Discord, either. While the company does take official action against things like criminal activity and harassment, much of the platform's moderation is handled per-server, by users tasked with managing their own spaces.

"This is of course to some extent just outsourcing the highly skilled labour of moderation and of community management," Data & Society research analyst William Partin told NPR. "If I see someone harassing someone on Twitter, I can go and report it, but I kind of have to be in the right place at the right time on Discord."

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.