Discord Walks Back iOS Block on NSFW Content

Illustration for article titled Discord Walks Back iOS Block on NSFW Content

Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Discord has walked back an earlier decision to ban NSFW servers completely from its iPhone and iPad apps.

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The company changed the guidelines on accessing NSFW content after experiencing severe pushback from its users. The ban now only applies to servers specifically focused on explicit pornographic content, including any server either “organized” around NSFW themes or where most of the server is devoted to 18-and-up content. Individual channels denoted as NSFW are still accessible, but only behind an opt-in age-gate.

When asked for a statement on the latest change, Discord responded with the following statement, along with links to support articles for users and server owners:

Our goal is always to keep Discord safe, especially for our younger users. Last week, we introduced additional controls to ensure minors will not be exposed to content that is inappropriate for them per App Store guidelines. We realize the community had many questions, and we wanted to clarify our position and which servers will or will not be affected. These updates are outlined in detail on our support articles for users and server owners. We will continue to work with server owners and our partners, and will notify all server owners letting them know which of their servers are impacted.

Discord will continue to comb through servers and channels to ensure they’re adhering to the new designations. It’s also working on a feature to allow servers to self-identify as NSFW.

Discord had initially beefed up its restrictions on NSFW content to comply with Apple’s iOS Developer Guidelines, which allow for “incidental” NSFW content as long as it’s only displayed after the user specifically opts in. But instead of mandating an age-gate where applicable, Discord banned adult iOS users altogether from accessing any NSFW content of any kind. The company then attempted to shift the attention over to Apple for its restrictive content policies in the App Store.

That upset communities of people who rely on Discord to generate revenue or engage with their following. Kink artists, furry groups, and other affiliated communities felt particularly affected by the NSFW policy. One artist, A. Szabla, explained to Rolling Stone how the ban would have negatively impacted queer communities using Discord to organize:

With bans on NSFW I often see a lot of queer art, and queer folks who are trying to view or create this work in order to better connect with their own genders and identities, getting hit the hardest and losing business and income because of these overreaching decisions by tech companies.

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It took a week for Discord to soften its stance on the iOS ban, perhaps as a show of faith to its users. However, there are still rumblings reverberating around social media that the company’s recent moves have been motivated in part to appeal as a safe investment to possible buyers—with Microsoft being the frontrunner.

Discord doesn’t have a clean past, which might be why there have been so many recent changes to its terms of use for adult communities. The chat app, which launched in 2015, has a history of allowing offensive content such as child pornography to circulate throughout the platform with few consequences, along with other disturbing content and extremist material. It still doesn’t offer parental controls, but rather points users to a guide for using the built-in privacy and safety features to keep safe.

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