ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Discord – a social platform catering to gamers – is gaining national notoriety after explicit photos of a deceased 17-year-old girl's were shared on the platform by her alleged killer. Utica, New York, police identified the victim as Bianca Devins, and have charged Brandon Clark, 21, with second-degree murder.
What is Discord?
Since its founding in 2015, Discord has amassed more than 250 million active users worldwide.
The free platform allows users to contact one another via text, voice and video call on desktop and mobile applications. It’s marketed as an alternative to Skype or TeamSpeak, and avid gamers have the option to purchase higher quality video, larger upload limits and downloadable games.
How does it work?
Discord's Terms of Service, which users agree to when they sign up, state that you must be 13 years or older to use the platform.
However, users are not prompted to confirm their age when they create a username, only a valid email address.
Chat groups, called servers, are created by users for a common purpose - to discuss a specific topic, to share outside content, and frequently, to communicate live while users play the same video game.
These servers may be password protected or "invite only" but are typically accessed by users through public links. These are often posted on other social platforms like Reddit and 4chan - a site that allows anyone to share images and comments anonymously.
While Discord was created and optimized for group gameplay, users can contact each other through private chats which have the same text, audio and visual capabilities as the community groups.
How is it regulated?
The platform's official community guidelines state that sharing images of gore, posting graphic images for sadistic pleasure, glorification or celebration of violence and sharing content related to minors that is sexually suggestive or violent isn't tolerated.
However, the platform does have an NSFW - Not Suitable For Work - feature, which users are encouraged to attach to their servers for content that the website says "might be ok for you might but unsuitable for others."
This puts a content warning over these channels that requires users to confirm they are adults by answering the question, "Are you over eighteen and willing to see adult content?" with either "Nope" or "Continue."
As a result, channels containing pornography, violence, racism and political extremism are easy to access.
The Terms of Service states that Discord has "no obligation" to monitor the channels but that they can terminate or suspend a users account without notice or reason.
Follow the Democrat and Chronicle on Twitter: @DandC.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Discord: What to know about gamers messaging platform