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Discord Lawsuits

Young Boy on Social MediaIs the popular social media channel Discord dangerous? Ongoing lawsuits have blamed the social media site for multiple types of serious harm its young users have suffered.

The presence of exploitative content, exposure to depictions of self-harm and graphic violence, and a venue for online harassment combine to make Discord a potentially dangerous online environment for children and teens. Compounding these problems are a site design alleged to promote addiction to the social media site and a longstanding lack of adequate parental controls that can help adults keep their children safe on the site.

If you believe Discord is to blame for the harm your child suffered, you may be able to hold the social media company legally accountable through a social media lawsuit. To find out more about your legal rights at no cost, call Console & Associates, P.C. today at 866-778-5500.

Why Are Families Suing Discord?

Discord is now at the center of lawsuits alleging a variety of types of harm, specifically to child and teenage users. Ongoing Discord injury lawsuits have pointed to the following types of harm that, the claims allege, were consequences of using the social media platform:

  • Addiction
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Body image issues and eating disorders
  • Self-harm and suicide

Exposure to inappropriate and exploitative content is a problem on Discord that can put children and teens at risk. Communications that are sexually explicit, encourage illegal drug use, or contain depictions of graphic violence may contribute to children and teens feeling harassed or unsafe or even becoming victims of violent predators or drug overdoses.

What Is Discord?

Discord is an instant messaging and voice communication platform established in 2015. The privately-owned company behind the app is known as Discord, Inc.

The platform was initially conceived as a replacement for existing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology that would allow players of online video games to more effectively communicate with each other. Today, though, users keep in touch with a variety of communities, including people the user may not know in real life.

A growing number of people are using Discord for communication for purposes outside of online gaming, including interacting with communities based on geographical region and interests like financial investing, dating, entertainment, sports, and memes, according to CNBC. Discord is somewhat different than other social media platforms in which users publish posts or view others’ posts on a newsfeed, The New York Times noted.

Discord is a popular social media channel that, as of 2023, boasts 150 million monthly active users who spend a collective 4 billion minutes of server conversation daily using the service.

Children and Teens’ Use of Discord

Discord is particularly popular among young users. As of 2022, more than 22% of Discord users worldwide were between the ages of 16 and 24, according to Statista.

As of the fall of 2020, Discord had officially overtaken Facebook in terms of popularity among teens, Insider Intelligence reported. The percentage of teens who called Discord their favorite social media platform continued to climb from 3% to 5% as of the spring of 2021 (while Facebook remained at 2%). Although not preferred by nearly as many teens as Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram—which accounted for 31%, 30%, and 24% of recipients’ favorite social media platforms, respectively—Discord’s influence over young users continues to grow rapidly.

According to a 2021 article by The New York Times, young people commonly use the Discord platform for purposes like gaming, interacting with classmates (for fun or to communicate about homework and projects), and chatting with people with similar interests (who they may not know personally). For many young people, Discord usage has become so prevalent that it has largely replaced text messaging.

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How Does Discord Fail to Protect Young Users?

The ongoing lawsuits filed against Discord, Inc. have alleged that the social media platform’s design includes defective or dangerous features that are contributing to the harm many of its young users have suffered.

The complaint in the case C.U. and S.U. v. Meta Platforms Inc., which also encompasses among its defendants Discord, Snapchat and Roblox, references “Discord’s defective and/or inherently misleading safety features and, independently, its failure to conduct reasonable verification of age, identity, and parental consent.”

“In the last two years Discord has become a chaotic space, where innocent gamers’ voices have increasingly intermingled with those of shady criminals, child groomers, hate-mongers and, most notoriously, white supremacists,” Forbes reported in 2019.

Discord’s own transparency reports indicate that concerns over the safety of the platform—particularly for children—remain relevant. In the first quarter of 2023, 54,835 Discord accounts were disabled due to policy violations pertaining to child safety, according to the company’s own Transparency Report.

The 173,745 total instances of accounts being disabled for policy violations (other than spam) in the first quarter of 2023 also included the following:

  • 41,441 accounts disabled for regulated or illegal activities
  • 22,123 accounts disabled for exploitative and unsolicited content
  • 18,666 accounts disabled for violent and graphic content
  • 12,489 accounts disabled for harassment and bullying
  • 8,308 accounts disabled for violent extremism
  • 4,352 accounts disabled for hateful conduct
  • 1,294 accounts disabled for self-harm concerns

It’s a good thing that the accounts spreading such content are, at least in some instances, being identified and disabled—but this data illustrates that the presence of content that can harm or endanger young users of the site remains a problem on Discord.

What Features Make Discord Potentially Dangerous to Young Users?

The alleged defects that, according to existing Discord lawsuits, make the platform a danger to child and teen users include the following:

Failing to Implement Age Verification Procedures

Officially, Discord’s policies require users to be at least 13 years old—but those policies alone may not mean much if there’s nothing to back them up.

A 12-year-old quoted in the article referenced above by The New York Times noted that “nobody follows that rule.” The 12-year-old quoted also said he was aware of Discord users as young as eight years old.

How have underage users gotten away with accessing Discord in spite of official policies to the contrary? By not employing any meaningful age verification protocols, the platform has been alleged to have failed to actually enforce its user age requirement.

Attempting to register a new account with a birth year that puts the user’s age under 13 will result in an “unable to register” message. However, there are no safeguards to prevent young users from inputting an inaccurate birth year and no checks to ensure that users’ ages really are what they say they are.

Further, accepting users as young as 13 still goes against the recommendations U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy made in January 2023 when he shared his opinion that “13 is too early” to be using social media, according to CNN.

Causing Users to Mistakenly Think They’re Protected by the “Keep Me Safe” Feature

One feature that can make kids feel safe—even when they’re not—while using Discord is the platform’s “Keep Me Safe” filter for Direct Messages. Discord claims that, under this setting, “images and videos in all direct messages are scanned by Discord and explicit media content is blocked.” However, lawsuits allege that this setting failed to protect young users from sexual predators and, at least historically, concentrated instead on identifying malware.

Utilizing an Addictive Platform Design

Discord benefits from keeping users engaged on the platform as much as possible. Highly engaged users are more likely to spring for paid membership options, like Nitro subscriptions, that offer users extra perks. Paid subscriptions aside, as a platform made primarily for communication, Discord’s growth depends upon its users having plenty of other active users to interact with. In other words, it’s in Discord’s best interests to keep users actively engaged in using the platform as much as possible.

According to Discord’s official ‘About Discord’ company page, it’s not uncommon for users to spend “upwards of 4 hours per day” talking on the platform. It’s not a stretch to imagine that such heavy use of the social media channel can cut into real-life activities and social interactions. Among young people who develop an addiction to Discord, time spent on the social media platform may cut into hobbies, schoolwork, and even sleep—leaving them feeling isolated, performing poorly in school, and suffering the negative physical and mental health effects of sleep deprivation.

Waiting Too Long to Implement Adequate Parental Controls

Until fairly recently, Discord as a platform wasn’t just lacking in parental controls—rather, “Discord’s philosophy has rejected this concept, stressing a focus on user needs, not the needs of their parents,” CNBC reported. In what the July 2023 article referred to as an “about-face on parental controls for teen social media use,” Discord has now rolled out parental controls described as being similar to those found in other popular social media platforms.

The site now features a Parent Hub that provides resources and information for the parents and guardians of young users. There’s also a Family Center tool to “help guide their teen’s use of Discord without being too invasive.”

It’s too soon to tell how effective Discord’s parental controls, resources, and Family Center tool will be toward preventing exposure to inappropriate and exploitative content and harassment from predators in the future—especially since some of the companies to which CNBC compared these parental controls are still facing lawsuits today.

For the child and teen Discord users who have already suffered harm over the years the social media platform has been operating, the implementation of these safety features may be too late.

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What Kind of Social Media Harm Can Families Sue Discord Over?

When child and teen users of social media platforms like Discord suffer significant harm from using the service, their families may have grounds for a legal claim against the company. Some of the types of harm alleged to have been caused by Discord use include the following.

Discord Addiction

Social media addiction is an all-too-common phenomenon, especially among young users.

There are scientific reasons children and teens are especially vulnerable to becoming addicted to Discord and other social media channels, according to the American Psychological Association. During this stage of brain development, children become more heavily influenced by social interactions and the way they activate the reward system in the brain. Interactions on social media platforms like Discord can activate this reward system, which in turn makes young users motivated to use the platform more and more frequently.

For many young people, social media overuse can become a full-blown social media addiction that interferes with their real-world life and is detrimental to their mental or even physical health. Sleep deprivation, loss of interest in offline social interactions and activities, and changes in performance at school are among the many possible consequences of a child or teenager’s addiction to Discord.

Discord Use and Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Health Disorders in Teens

Among the mental health issues most commonly associated with social media use in children and teens are anxiety and depression.

“Several studies have linked time spent on social media to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression,” reported a 2021 advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. More recently, a 2023 Surgeon General’s advisory noted that “over the last decade, evidence has emerged identifying reasons for concern about the potential negative impact of social media on children and adolescents.”

Discord hasn’t been singled out by researchers in the way that certain other social media channels have. However, the long spans of time people spend using the platform are concerning.

A 2019 research study published in JAMA Psychiatry noted the impact of time spent using social media on how this exposure affects mental health. The researchers determined that, as the 2023 Surgeon General’s advisory summed up, “adolescents who spent more than 3 hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety.” Considering how many users spend three, four, or even more hours per day using Discord, it’s unsurprising that some of the current Discord lawsuits involve harm that includes depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

Discord and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders and poor body image can affect young people’s physical and mental well-being in significant ways. Social media channels, including Discord, can contribute to a poor body image and the development of eating disorders.

Nonprofit organization The Brookings Institution has called out Discord, among other social media sites, as an online environment where “communities of eating disorder enthusiasts” exist. Through posts and private messages in which users may share their weight or their ‘tips’ for weight loss (which are often misguided and potentially even dangerous), these communities can amplify the sort of harmful content that contributes to eating disorders, especially in young people.

Self-Harm and Suicide Among Kids Addicted to Discord

Social media addiction—and the depression, eating disorders, and other harms that often accompany it—may even cause children and teens to hurt themselves. Some teens struggling with these issues have engaged in self-harm behaviors. Others have taken (or attempted to take) their own lives.

In the cases in which it’s possible to do so, getting a child suffering from social media harm and addiction professional right away is critical—especially if the child is exhibiting any warning signs that they are considering harming themselves.

The tragic reality, though, is that a family’s ability to help their loved one affected by social media addiction may be limited. Parents should know that self-harm and suicide arising out of social media addiction aren’t their fault or their child’s fault. The features of social media sites that take advantage of young users’ developing brains and vulnerability is what makes them potentially dangerous.

What Should I Do If My Child Has Been Harmed Because of Discord?

No Fee PromiseFor the families that have been affected by Discord addiction and the serious harms that can result, everything has changed. Although nothing can bring back what you have lost, family members sometimes find a sense of purpose in being able to hold a social media site like Discord accountable for the harm their child has suffered. In doing so, they can not only get answers and shine a light on the dangerous practices of social media companies but also make an effort to protect other families from going through the same pain.

The social media attorneys at Console & Associates, P.C. believe that every family harmed by Discord or another social media channel should have the chance to hold the company accountable. That’s why we offer free, confidential consultations and no-win, no-fee legal representation. We’ll listen to your story, answer your questions, and help you understand your legal rights and options, all with the utmost compassion and professionalism. If you choose us to help you move forward with a Discord lawsuit claim, we’ll handle every aspect of your legal matter for you at no upfront cost.

If you’re ready to find out more about suing Discord for social media addiction and harm, we’re ready to help. Call 866-778-5500 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation case review.

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