Originally pitched as a sort of “Slack for gamers,” over the last four years Discord has attracted more than 250 million users and evolved into a catch-all chat platform that lets people debate politics, share music, and watch movies. In recent years, critics and journalists have accused the platform of lax moderation. Now, Discord has become a hub for potentially dangerous underage dating.
Discord “servers” can be created by anyone in a region where the service is available, and function as small communities made up of both text and voice chat rooms. Dating servers are established to facilitate relationships, and the administrators of these servers often instruct users to list their interests, sexual orientation, and the nature of the romantic encounter they’re seeking.
Though Discord does ask users whether they are over 18 before joining channels and servers flagged as NSFW, the platform has no age verification process for checking the ages of users entering dating servers. That means dating servers have also drawn in underage users, with teenage Discord users creating and running dating servers targeted for other teens. OneZero reporting reveals that these servers have also attracted potentially predatory behavior. Six Discord users under the age of 18 spoke to OneZero, detailing their concerns about the safety of these teen dating servers. Four of them discussed how they try to keep their servers free of adults and bad actors.
Discord’s director of Trust and Safety, Sean Li, says underage dating channels are against company policy. “We do not allow servers designed to facilitate teen dating on our platform,” Li tells OneZero. “When we become aware of the existence of such servers, we quickly investigate and shut down any violating servers.”
Teen dating servers fall outside of the platform’s guidelines, Li explains, because “they are likely to lead to activities that violate our Terms of Service,” and that the company is “committed to making Discord a safe and positive place.” Those activities, a spokesperson elaborated, include “minors sending illegal content, [and] predatory…