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Discord's new policy will ban harmful medical advice targeting anti-vaxx groups

Discord's new policy will ban harmful medical advice targeting anti-vaxx groups

The company announced Friday that Discord is changing its policies and community guidelines to combat health misinformation, off-platform behavior and hate speech. This is the first major policy update for Discord in nearly two years and is designed to target groups or individuals who participate in organized violence, spread harmful anti-vaccination content, or are indecent to other Discord users. use language. troubled with.

After a two-year pandemic, Discord is further clarifying its policies regarding health misinformation. In new community guidelines that take effect March 28, Discord says users "may not share false or misleading information on Discord that is likely to cause physical or social harm." This includes material that may cause damage to physical infrastructure, cause injury to others, and material that may endanger public health.

The change is explicitly targeted at anti-vaxxers who post and promote seriously misleading health information – but that doesn't mean all anti-vaxxers will be removed from the platform.

"If someone posts on Discord, 'Drink four ounces of bleach and your body will get rid of the coronavirus,' it's actionable," explains Discord's chief legal officer Clint Smith in an interview with The Verge. "Therapeutic consent does not endorse this as a treatment for COVID, and there is a high potential for harm for anyone who follows that advice."

However, Smith says that if someone posts about "holding crystals against your chest for 5 minutes and your lung capacity will improve" in the context of the pandemic, that's not something Discord can take action against. could. He's leaving. “The healing power of crystals and crystals is not supported by medical consent, but there is little risk of harm to our users, so this statement about crystals, we are not going to act on it,” Smith says.

In deciding when to take action, Discord says it will consider the context of the messages, the potential for direct harm, the poster's intent to convince or deceive others, and whether a group or poster has violated Discord policies. - repeatedly violated. is history. Discord users will be able to continue reporting this type of content by right-clicking on any message on the service and pressing the Report button.

Similarly, Discord will also penalize users for harmful behavior they perform outside the platform. Relevant behavior includes membership of violent organizations, making credible threats of violence toward people, organizations, events, or places, and belonging to groups that sexually abuse children in any way.

The discord is limiting off-stage behavior to the "highest harm categories" of organized violence and sexual abuse of minors. "If a Discord user is accused of drug possession ... or implicated in cheating around a school exam, those are not the most harmful off-platform behaviors we're going to take into account, Smith explains. "We're going to focus on those off-platform behaviors that have the potential to do the most harm to our users and anyone's Discord experience."

Research published last year by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue showed that far-right groups have exploded on platforms like Discord and Steam. These groups may organize real-world violence or participate in harassment and raids on Discord servers. Discord has set off these types of groups for years, but they persist. New groups appear regularly, and even social protest groups can organize on platforms such as Discord or Facebook and eventually lead to violence in the real world. Discord is throwing data science and machine learning algorithms at the problem, but the company relies heavily on outside experts and others to report extremist content.

“This is an area where we are investing heavily in building relationships with experts and credible journalists,” explains Smith. "There are people outside of Discord who are experts in what groups are promoting violence and hate, and they can alert us to those groups that we should ban discord."

Smith says the company has consulted with academics, groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and journalists from trusted outlets. Discord also invests in paid advisors with specialized expertise that the platform does not have on its own staff.

Discord takes a decentralized approach to moderation, setting it apart from platforms like Facebook. Instead of actively scanning for content violations, it relies on individual servers to moderate itself and escalate the content in company moderation when necessary. I always compare Discord to my local pub, as it hosts a wide array of groups. We wouldn't expect to police all those different groups of conversations with the landlord of a pub, but you would expect them to ban groups based on reports. Discord's model means it's more difficult to spread misinformation on the service, but it's ideal for groups to organize privately without explicit oversight and collect numbers you can't do offline.

To clarify the definition between private and public servers a bit, Discord is also highlighting public servers with a new tag in the soon client. Discord is clearly trying to bridge the line between platform management and privacy as well.

"You can imagine that we would do more machine learning from a security standpoint on conversations that happen in large public communities, but we wouldn't do that on private DMs and private servers," Smith says. "If a small group DM has a high expectation of privacy, we want to respect that expectation of privacy."

Discord is also targeting hate speech by expanding its protected characteristics to race, gender identity, age, serious illness, and more. The Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Community Guidelines also include more regular English than legal language, which is often difficult for users to understand. Terms like NSFW have also been dropped in favor of age-restrictions, to make it easier for Discord users in countries where such terms are not widely used.

Most of these major changes stem from how the world has changed over the years and how Discord has evolved to target a broader market. Discord is raising cash in an ambitious effort to move beyond gaming, and the service continues to attract a diverse mix of communities as a result.

“In 2020 we were a band of Californians serving a gaming-oriented audience,” jokes Smith. "In 2022, we have employees across the US in Toronto, London and Amsterdam, and we have a truly global and broad audience that goes beyond gaming."

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