Discord is now removing server Partnerships for NSFW content, affected users claim

An update to Discord's Partnership requirements now says Partnered servers "should never contain pornographic content," sparking outrage among users who claim Discord is cracking down on the platform's biggest communities.

Controversy first arose after r/FFXIV subreddit moderator Eanae turned to r/discordapp, revealing that their subreddit's server lost its Discord Partner status. Discord contacted the r/FFXIV channel and asked mods to delete "lolicon content," images sexualizing children, which is against Discord's Terms of Service. The server's Partnership status was not restored.

Eanae went on to share an email transcript between himself and a Discord employee, in which Discord said it permanently stripped the r/FFXIV Discord server of its Partnership, claiming users are throwing around "a large amount" of slurs. Discord decided enough was enough and pulled the plug on the Partnership, Eanae's post implies.

"By being a Partnered server, we hold your community to a higher standard and trust that your server is one that anyone can enjoy without worry," a Discord employee wrote, according to Eanae's transcript. "Unfortunately, you and your server's behaviors and actions have not fostered a welcome home. [...] This is a final decision and the perks will not be restored."

Some Discord users suspect that the r/FFXIV Discord server's NSFW content, not its general toxic behavior, was the transgression that led to the loss of Partnership. Before Eanae posted his thread, Redditor Liquid-Fire also shared an email transcript with Discord's Trust and Safety team member Aspekt. In that email, Aspekt told an unnamed server's moderator that the server lost its Partnered server perks because Partnered servers cannot "contain pornographic content." The OP reached out to Liquid-Fire for a response.

"While we would be able to restore perks if the channels were entirely deleted, because of the fact that there was also a warning sent to you from our Trust & Safety Team regarding your unlabeled channels with NSFW content, we will not be offering a restoration of your Partner perks," Aspekt told a server moderator, according to Liquid-Fire's post.

While Discord still allows users to run servers even if they don't have Partnered status, servers that form a Partnership with Discord receive additional perks that make community management easier. Discord Partners can host their communities on "higher performance voice servers" and access Discord Nitro's features, including larger uploads.

More importantly, Discord Partners receive improved customization options, including custom splash art and a personal URL link. Losing that Partnership status can make community growth harder, especially for Discord servers relying on their custom link to promote themselves and stand out as a lively place to hang out.

Furthermore, Discord hasn't always cracked down on NSFW content in Partnered servers. In fact, the update to Discord's Partnership guidelines is only recent. A cached version of the Discord Partnership webpage from July 23 reveals no such policy existed in written form, and two separate tweets from September and November 2017 show that Discord allowed NSFW content on Partnered servers. The change appears recent.

It's unclear why the policy changed. Discord insists that Partners were told to moderate NSFW content from the start. In a post on Eanae's thread, Discord employee and r/discordapp moderator b1naryth1ef claimed the policy was made clear after Discord first introduced NSFW channels, and that "all our existing partners" were told "NSFW content (such as pornography) is not allowed in Partnered servers." The OP reached out to Discord for further clarification.

Regardless of whether Discord's take on NSFW content in Partnered servers is new or old, it's clear that Discord wants to set boundaries for the service's adult communities and Partnership system. This is despite the fact that adult-oriented gaming Discord servers like Healsluts sport thousands of users and that Discord has earned a reputation for being a bastion of free speech.

"Nobody takes you seriously—at least in the U.S.—if you host pornographic content," user Parzivus wrote on Reddit after the Fate: Grand Order subreddit closed its Discord server's NSFW channels. "Twitch got bought by Amazon, so they have to care. Discord is getting big investments by Tencent and TimeWarner, so they care more now as well."

Today, Valve launched its own internal chat client for Steam, aspiring to eat some of Discord's lunch. Steam has historically been far more ambivalent to dangerous and bigoted behavior.

H/T Reset Era

Update July 25, 2:30pm CT: A quote from Eanae was removed, as the flagged comment about Obama was from an anecdote about a previous conversation and taken out of its original context.

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