Discord is introducing more nuance into how it punishes users that break the rules. In the coming weeks, the chat app will begin to phase out permanent bans for "many violations," instead opting for temporary bans of one year.
In a press briefing held on the app, senior director of policy Savannah Badalich said Discord will still hand down permanent account bans for violations it deems "extremely harmful," but did not specify what qualifies as extreme.
"The new system gives users more room to learn from their mistakes and correct misjudgments," Badalich said,"to make Discord a safer place and to give people more opportunities."
The new "Warning System," as Discord coined it, will give offending users specific feedback about what violations they committed, the sanctions they've received, and provide links to the relevant policies. A new tab within Discord's privacy and safety settings will also let users view their overall account standing, with ratings that range from "all good" to "at risk" and, presumably, account termination. Depending on the violation, Discord will lock out users from performing certain actions. A promotional video gave the example of a user posting an inappropriate image in chat and losing the ability to post images for a limited time.
These sorts of temporary punishments and feature limiting tools have always been possible on a per-server basis with the help of moderation bots, but the difference here is that a sanction from Discord itself is platform-wide—mess up in one server and it carries over everywhere else.
Badalich was confident in the new moderation tools, going as far as to suggest Discord could pave the way for other social platforms.
"We've found that if we tell people what they've done wrong and give them an opportunity for rehabilitation, we can actually encourage better digital citizens," Baladich said.
"We think it's worth trying to take a more nuanced approach because it does right by our users, upholds our values, and could potentially lay out a different way of approaching content moderation at scale that others can learn from."
The presentation covered a lot, but it didn't address one simple method for avoiding sanctions: making a new account. Starting fresh on Discord isn't like starting over on Twitter or Instagram, where you're unlikely to get all of your followers back. Making a new Discord account and rejoining servers takes a matter of minutes.
I imagine Discord hopes users will have a greater attachment to their original account once they start investing in the new in-app microtransaction shop, currently a Nitro-exclusive feature rolling out soon to all users. The shop allows users to personalize their accounts with avatar decorations and profile effects visible on all servers. It's a lot like Steam's little profile decoration store, except instead of turning your avatar into a snowglobe using points accrued naturally by purchasing Steam games, the Discord decorations on offer right now are $7 to $8 each (plus a discount for Nitro members).
Not to mention all of the other ways to spend money in Discord that the company is introducing. Community developers in the US already have the option to monetize their apps with premium subscriptions, and access for the UK and EU begins this week.