Culture

Discord Cracks Down on NSFW Furry Art, Extremist Problem Persists

On Tuesday, the gaming chat platform Discord quietly updated its tips to limit grownup content material, issuing a ban on customers accessing NSFW servers (primarily, chatrooms with a number of channels) on iOS gadgets. The replace went on to state that whole servers, versus particular person channels, are required to be designated NSFW if the neighborhood “is organized around NSFW content or whose content is predominantly 18+,” a spokesperson for Discord informed Rolling Stone. It will nonetheless be potential for Discord customers to entry NSFW servers on its desktop model, and on Android.

“We are committed to ensuring a safer experience for everyone on Discord. We always work hard to create robust controls to help ensure minors are not exposed to content that is inappropriate for them,” the spokesperson stated of the choice.


The replace, although small and largely unheralded save for just a few cursory posts on tech blogs, was notable for just a few causes. For starters, as many grownup content material creators famous, Discord’s change in coverage relating to NSFW content material is an element of a bigger pattern of main social media platforms cracking down on NSFW content material, most notably Tumblr, which served as a bastion of erotica for years earlier than the web site unceremoniously banned it.

As was the case with Tumblr, Discord’s coverage shift was supposed “to comply with Apple’s policies,” because the spokesperson informed Rolling Stone, referring to notoriously stringent restrictions on nudity and grownup content material (it’s additionally price noting that Discord is at present in talks with the equally NSFW-shy Microsoft over a sale that could possibly be worth more than $10 billion). Though the Discord spokesperson stated the coverage can be rolled out over the subsequent few days, not less than one standard server dedicated to erotic furry artwork, the Discord server for the subreddit r/yiff, has been blocked on the iOS platform, in line with a screengrab offered to Rolling Stone. (“Yiff” is a time period used to explain sexual content material within the fandom; many inside the subculture don’t sexualize it.)

In addition to furries, different stigmatized teams use Discord as a platform for NSFW content material. “This is a huge blow to many marginalized communities, particularly queer, trans, sex worker, and kink/adult play spaces that rely on Discord for community and communication,” says writer Ana Valens, who has reported on Discord’s earlier efforts to curb NSFW content material. NSFW artist A. Szabla agrees, saying, “With bans on NSFW I often see a lot of queer art, and queer folks who are trying to view or create this work in order to better connect with their own genders and identities, getting hit the hardest and losing business and income because of these overreaching decisions by tech companies.” 

Though it initially began out in 2015 as a messaging app geared in direction of players, lately, Discord has grown tremendously and garnered far more of a mainstream consumer base: as of the top of 2020, it has 13.5 million servers and practically 140 million customers. But its “geeky or niche” roots are nonetheless obvious, says Valens: “I’d say gaming spaces and fandom spaces are still the most popular on Discord by far.” NSFW content material particularly is an “enormous part of the platform’s culture,” says Valens, with many Patreon artists and fandom communities internet hosting NSFW channels of their servers. 

Watsup is an artist who runs a 2,400-member Discord server that hosts many furry members, and membership rewards applications for Patreon. His server has not been taken down, however he does fear that it might occur as the brand new coverage rolls out.  “[Dischord] is definitely an important part of how I make a living,” he says. It has turn out to be a serious visitors driver for artists and NSFW creators — “someone shares an image on one of those sites and it might not stay for very long, but it reaches a lot of eyeballs” — however maybe extra importantly, through the pandemic such servers have blossomed into socialization hubs for members of marginalized communities. “I think these are the type of people that will be hit the hardest. Just normal people that like to look at art or porn and hang out in those sorts of servers,” he says. 

Part of the explanation why Discord could also be cracking down on NSFW content material stems from the truth that it has traditionally had a well-documented problem with hosting child sexual abuse and nonconsensual adult material. In current years, because the platform has gained reputation, it has scrambled to institute changes to protect minors and revamp its picture, to various levels of success: as Rolling Stone beforehand reported, one explicit server internet hosting nonconsensual deepfake porn of TikTok stars garnered greater than 100 members earlier than Discord deleted it. But whereas Wat acknowledges that Discord completely does have an issue with youngster sexual abuse materials (as did Tumblr earlier than it purged grownup content material altogether), citing the preponderance of such materials as a motive to ban NSFW content material as Tumblr famously did is “a bit of a red herring,” they are saying. “Every platform that the iOS still hosts has pedophilic content lurking on it,” they are saying. 

As the platform has grown, Discord additionally has a demonstrable problem curbing violent and extremist materials. The platform notoriously served as a hub for the planning of the Unite the Right rally in 2017, in addition to the supply of the grisly postmortem picture of 17-year-old homicide sufferer Bianca Devins, which went viral in the summertime of 2019. More just lately, Discord acknowledged its points with violent extremist content material when it revealed a transparency report earlier this month. According to the report, Discord needed to take away greater than 1,500 servers associated to violent extremist content material, similar to QAnon content material, within the second half of 2020, which represented a 93 % improve from the primary half of the year. (Their spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to a question about why NSFW content material was a precedence for them presently.)


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