A chat app used by white supremacists before the domestic terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been subpoenaed in a court case, which could unmask some of the participants.
What is the Discord app?
Discord is a secure chat app that was originally favored by videogamers. It was co-opted by white supremacists and hate groups, and reportedly used by some of the neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, which allowed them to keep their identities secret. The day after the nighttime torch-lit march, a white supremacist rammed counterprotestors with his car, killing a woman.
The counterprotestors who were injured have filed a federal lawsuit against the march's organizers, a group called Unite the Right. Their attorneys have subpoenaed Discord for the user information and chat logs of 30 people who may have taken part.
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Why is the Discord app being subpoenaed?
The Discord app "allowed the organizers and participants of the deadly Aug. 12 rally to convene in private, invite-only threads shrouded in anonymity, with usernames such as 'kristall.night' and 'WhiteTrash,'" reports the Washington Post. "On a Discord server called “Charlottesville 2.0,” they planned everything from car pools, dress code and lodging in Charlottesville to how one might improvise weapons in case of a fight. Some suggested using flag poles as a makeshift spear or club."
The user named Kristall.night filed to block the subpoena and prevent herself and others from being unmasked. A judge denied her request, and her attorneys might appeal. But the counterprotestors' attorneys said they wouldn't seek the messages written by the users, because doing so would violate the Stored Communications Act.
In the days after the Charlottesville attack, Discord shut down several accounts associated with the event. “Discord’s mission is to bring people together around gaming,” it said, just days after the violence in Charlottesville. “We’re about positivity and inclusivity. Not hate. Not violence.”
But in their lawsuit, the counterprotestors said messages posted on a Discord thread about Charlottesville included Nazi symbols, a fake ad for pepper spray to use against black people, which the ad called “n—– killer,” and suggestions about how to get around the rally's no-weapons policy, such as hiding rocks in a sock to throw at counterprotestors.