Discord does not care about anyone’s privacy, but this is a more pressing problem for minorities.
Discord allows you to set different profiles for different servers. Great! However, as far as I see it, the fact that you can use this feature only if you pay is yet another tax that is imposed on those people who are part of the minorities. If you are not part of a minority, maybe you don’t see the problem. If you are part of a minority, and you don’t care about the concern I’m highlighting here, then good for you, I guess. However, in my view, this problem affects everyone. I’m going to explain this issue here. I’ll start with the minorities, but I’ll explain later in the article how it affects everyone.
Discord is a social media platform that allows its users to chat among themselves. It offers a fair amount of services for free. You do not have to pay to join, to chat, to DM people, to create a new chat server, etc. However, some features require payment. The platform has to make money somehow. One such feature is the capability to set different profiles for different servers. If you pay, then you can set up a certain profile text for one server, and a different profile text for another server.
This is a case of institutional discrimination. Discord, the company will declare that they are not discriminating against anyone. They will say that everyone on the platform has to pay for getting different profiles. Therefore, the payment requirement is not discriminatory. Still, when you look at the effects that their policies have, you realize that these policies are disproportionately affecting minorities. Note here that I’m not saying that this requirement impacts all minorities, or that it impacts all minorities in exactly the same way. My contention is merely that this requirement is another form of discrimination. I’m a member of several of these minorities.
“You’re a cis white man! How can you call yourself a member of a minority?”
I’m a member of multiple minorities. Yes, I’m cis. Yes, I’m white. Yes, I’m a man. However, I’m also pansexual, polyamorous, into BDSM, autistic, and I could probably add more, but I don’t want to lead us astray here. If you are not part of these minorities, please do not make the mistake of thinking that being a member of one implies being a member of the other. Some people are pansexual, but not into BDSM, for instance.
Now, the thing is that there are all kinds of chat servers on Discord. Some of them are related to topics that one might call professional. For instance, a company may decide to open a Discord server to provide support for a product. (I don’t think that’s the best idea, but some companies do this.) Or it is possible to find servers dedicated to specific programming languages. Next to those professional servers, you also find servers that are about sexuality, specific physical and mental conditions, hobbies, etc.
Do you see the problem with having a single profile for all these servers?
My username is YourAutisticLife. That’s already a bit of a problem because I tell people I’m autistic right in my username. I’m willing to live with this choice. In addition, my profile repeats that I’m autistic, and mentions that I’m pansexual and polyamorous. I am currently on a server led by trans people. I am also on a couple of servers dealing with autism. On these servers, I don’t care if people know that I’m autistic, pansexual and polyamorous. The people there are tolerant.
What about the professional servers?
Right now, those professional servers see the exact same profile text. If they read my profile, they know that I’m autistic, pansexual, and polyamorous. Now, I’m not usually shy about these, but do those servers need to know this information? I’ve thought about editing my profile, but then I remembered that because I do not have Nitro, I’m condemned to have the same profile text everywhere. Listen. I’m 51, and so far I haven’t gotten any flak for my revelations. However, I may do at some point in the future. I’d prefer to keep that information out of my profile on those servers preemptively, but I cannot do this, because I’d have to pay.
However, I can easily imagine people in more precarious positions deciding to hide their identity because they don’t want to antagonize people, and they don’t have the money to pay for Nitro. Not everybody is a 51-year-old man.
“But you can have multiple accounts! How about you create one with your real identity, and one that is professional?”
This does not scale. I already have multiple accounts. YourAutisticLife is not the account I use for everything. What you are suggesting here is that I create a “hobby” account for YourAutisticLife, and a professional one. So far so good, but what if I need multiple “hobby” profiles? Maybe I’m into cats and I want those people to know about my love of cats, but not about my sexual orientation. Not only this, but as I said above, I have multiple accounts already. Am I supposed to split all of them into “hobby” and professional??? Creating multiple accounts is not a solution.
Note here that I’m not saying that Discord shouldn’t charge for some of its features, but charging for the ability to have multiple profiles is discriminatory, because it impacts the minorities more. However, even if you do not consider yourself to be in a minority, you should be complaining about this. Let’s say you had cancer. If you join a support server for the survivors of cancer, and a professional server, do you want the information about your cancer to be seen by the people on the professional server?
“But why talk about your cancer at all?”
Because in some contexts it is useful to tell people about it, especially on a server dedicated to the support of survivors. It gets old repeating the same story over and over, about how you were diagnosed, treated, etc. If not cancer, then something else. You might be into circus clowns, and have a blog about them that you want to advertise in your profile on a server dedicated to clowns, but not want a professional server to know about this. Or it could be your religion, and so on and so forth. I don’t think it is such a strange idea to want to be open about your identity with your peeps, but not with other groups.
In my view, this is a privacy problem. Discord does not do everything it can to protect your privacy, if you do not pay them. This is why everyone should be unhappy about this. Yes, it impacts the minorities more, and is thus discriminatory, but everyone is impacted.