The leak of U.S. intelligence documents leaking highly classified information about the war in Ukraine reportedly began with gaming platforms.
leftover files Pentagon The scramble for answers was shared on a range of social media sites and is believed to have originated from a private group on Discord. Members claim they never intended to go public.
Jack TeixeiraA 21-year-old member of the US Air National Guard was arrested in connection with the leak.
But what is Discord, who are its users, and does it have links to the far right?
Just another gaming app?
Discord launched in 2015 as an online hangout and social tool for gamers. It has grown during the COVID pandemic into a forum for users ages 18 to 24 to gossip and even help each other with homework.
Players can create or join public and private “servers” where people can meet and hang out, chatting via text, video, or voice.
It is also possible to create private “invitation only” servers. Each server can be subdivided into channels for specific topics.
According to co-founder and CEO Jason Citron, more than 150 million people visit Discord every month.
The company has 21,000 servers – the vast majority of which are dedicated to gaming, with others focusing on topics such as entertainment and music.
Who uses Discord?
According to Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and director of the International Games Research Unit, Discord started as a discussion game strategy, but has since grown.
“Gamers, especially young male gamers, are likely to go online to find an audience that might actually listen to them. People in these groups — whose core identity is gaming — because they spend a lot of time gaming,” he said .
Discord is most popular with men aged 18-24.
According to digital intelligence platform Similarweb, about 38 percent of its web users and nearly half of its Android app users come from Gen Z, about 75 percent of whom are male.
Who is Jack Teixeira?
What did the documents say, and how did they get out?
Human behavior technologist and psychotherapist Catherine Knipps said it was a “completely anonymous” and “very masculine platform”.
“You can easily make up a random username and fake identities. As humans, we’re always looking for connections,” she said.
A sense of belonging is “very important”, she added, with “people embracing new personalities online to fit into their communities”.
Who is “OG” and what is Thug Shaker Central?
Some of the leaks are believed to have started on Discord.
In a private chat group called Thug Shaker Central, about two dozen users reportedly talked about their favorite guns and shared memes and jokes — some of them racist.The panel also discussed war, including the Russian invasion Ukraine.
Reportedly nicknamed OG, Teixeira has earned the admiration of most of the group’s younger members. He was recognized by The New York Times as a leader in chat groups.
“The file never leaves the group”
In interviews with the newspaper, members of the group said it started as a place where young people would gather to talk about their love of guns and play war-themed video games.
They claimed that the secret documents they discussed were purely for information and had no intention of leaving the group.
They also said they saw Teixeira as the group’s unofficial leader, claiming he wanted to teach younger members the realities of war.
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But the documents gained more attention after one of the members posted them on a public forum.
In a company statement, Discord said it was cooperating with law enforcement and “as this is still an active investigation, we are unable to provide further comment at this time”.
How were the documents leaked and where did they go?
According to the New York Times, Teixeira began releasing the original documents from October to March, and a member of the group claimed the pilot released about 350 documents.
The newspaper reported that on March 2, a member of the private group known as “Lucca” participated in a conversation about the war in Ukraine in a public Discord group where he posted dozens of documents.
On April 5, according to the investigative website Bellingcat, the documents began to circulate through the pro-Russia Telegram channel and 4chan.
Links to the far right?
This isn’t the first time Discord has been embroiled in controversy.
In 2017, white supremacists used the platform to orchestrate a United Right rally in Charlottesville, where a counter-protester was killed.
After the rally, Discord shut down some accounts related to the Charlottesville incident and said it would “continue to take action” against white supremacy and hate in all its forms.
Then in May 2022, a white teenager posted racist memes and recorded his thoughts on Discord before he shot and killed 10 people in a Buffalo grocery store.
The details, kept in a private group, include months of racist, anti-Semitic entries and a step-by-step description of the teen’s attack plan. Discord said 15 users had access to the entry before the attack. There’s no evidence anyone saw them before that.
Once discovered, the details were removed and the teen’s account banned, the platform said. The company said it also took steps to prevent the distribution of content related to the attack.