How Discord Saved Itself From the Alt-Right

The app made a concerted effort to remove its worst elements, and has grown as a result

Discord
The Discord app is displayed on the screen of an iPhone.
Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / June 30, 2020 1:19 pm

Can an app once known for toxic environments and being home to some of the internet’s most disreputable groups find its way towards a brighter future? For Discord, a chat app that began its life targeted to gamers and became popular among various alt-right groups, the answer appears to be “yes.” In 2018, Slate published an article that took a critical look at Discord’s policies, noting that the logistics for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville were organized via the app. It was one of several explorations of how Discord was being used by hate groups.

What happened next was encouraging: Discord began removing its alt-right and neo-Nazi presence. It turns out that by purging its most toxic users, Discord opened itself up to a wide variety of other groups, from Black Lives Matter organizers to members of book groups.

As Abram Brown writes for Forbes, the resulting changes at Discord have led to a period of steady growth for the app:

All of this has helped Discord attract more than 300 million registered users, up from 250 million a year ago and quadruple the figure from 2018. Some 100 million people use it actively every month, a 50%-plus increase in a year, making Discord roughly a third the size of Twitter or Snapchat. Altogether the users spend 4 billion minutes each day either texting, voice chatting or video messaging via the app.

Its valuation has also increased. Eighteen months ago, the app was valued at $2.05 billion; now, it’s at $3.5 billion.

Brown’s article notes that Discord still has some unpleasant presences on it. Nonetheless, the app, circa now, is a far more welcoming place than it was two or three years ago — and it’s found a much larger audience as as result.

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