If you are not a gamer, you might not have even heard of Discord. The platform, which is referred to by some as the better free alternative to Slack, was founded by Jason Citron in 2015. Discord’s main purpose is to allow players to talk to each other securely while playing games. However, the platform has long been used much more widely than just by gamers. For example it had long been gaining popularity also as a place for secret discussions, thanks to its privacy features.
So how did it happen that the chat platform for gamers became the infamous hero of the Pentagon leak scandal, the biggest leak of classified Pentagon documents since Edward Snowden?
Unlike most social media, Discord is decentralised and communities are organised into public or private groups, known as servers, where players can interact with each other. Most of the servers hosted on Discord are private and by invitation only, not allowing outsiders to find them or even search for them. This certainly gives members of closed groups a sense of intimacy and confidentiality in their discussions.
Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old accused of leaking Pentagon documents, was the leader of a private Discord server called Thug Shaker Central, where he allegedly shared hundreds of classified military documents, including several containing links to CIA briefings. The Thug Shaker Central server had about 20 members, and racist and anti-Semitic content was often circulated in the group. The leak went unnoticed and remained inside the group until one member decided to share some of the documents in a larger public group of around 4,000 members.
According to Washington Post the private group of about 20-30 young people knew of Teixeira as “OG,” and was well aware he had access to sensitive information from his work. The leaked information was supposed to stay in the Discord group, which one member told the Washington Post was like a “a tightknit family,”. About half of the group’s members were based outside the U.S. and included both Russians and Ukrainians.
Is Discord worth your attention as a community platform?
Discord currently has 150 million monthly active users interacting on 19 million active servers weekly. This results in the amount of 4 Billion server conversation minutes every day. Starting on Discord is easy and straightforward. For details on the technical side of running a server, check out Discord’s own beginner’s guide.