Discord, a rising text and call application made for gamers to chat, has enabled far more than conversations while playing video games. The app has become more popular and powerful, with 150 million users and a $2 billion worth to its name. Its purpose is to allow gamers to call each other while playing and to create servers, which are more complicated than but similar to group chats. As a brand, Discord is meant to be innocent and fun, but the features of the app have given criminals access to a platform and victims.
There have been servers containing various illegal activities that have thrived on Discord. These include shoplifters and hackers with chats dedicated to stealing and reselling both physical and digital goods. Their stealing ranges from shoes to passwords and other people’s cryptocurrency, or digital wallets. The FBI investigated one Discord group named “Hell’s Gate.” For a “subscription” that ranged from $9 to $50, they sold login information for social media, cryptocurrency, video games and more. They advertised access to over 100,000 of these accounts.
The majority of these groups have been banned from Discord, some of them after legal investigations into their activity like “Hell’s Gate” Discord is not the only safe haven for hackers and thieves, but it unintentionally provides them with advantages that other apps and sites do not. The site gives a degree of anonymity, though Discord gives user information to the government at a request or warrant.
Even when a server is banned, the creators can make another in minutes. Many communities that have violated Discord’s policies have reappeared on the site after being removed several times. Furthermore, the administrators of a server have control over who has access. This feature makes it easy to keep threats to a group out of its server. A Discord spokesperson stated that, “we (Discord) do investigate and take immediate action against any reported violation by a server or user, which can include shutting down offending servers or banning users.” A reporting system protects users and others, but Discord’s methods have proven to be somewhat ineffective and imply that an illegal server that is not reported may carry on unharmed.
Beyond these crimes are the rare cases of child grooming on the app. A search warrant from 2017, found by Forbes, indicated that a 22-year-old had contacted a 12-year-old through Discord. What came from these chats was two meeting up to engage in sexual activity. There have been more cases in 2018, with six men and one woman being arrested after initially contacting two teenage girls on the site and exploiting them. The FBI reportedly also investigated a missing child case in which police say the 14-year-old was contacted on Discord.
As a user base for a site grows, it’s expected that its amount of crime would with it. Discord is not yet in the clear, and there is potential for a change in its security policies. It is not too late for this community for gamers, but there are steps that its owners will likely be taking for its future.