Discord recently announced an update to its terms of service that prohibits “false or misleading health information that is likely to result in harm.” Through clouds of corporate-speak, the new rules go on to imply that criticism of the COVID-19 vaccines, disputing the guidance of health authorities, and advocating for unapproved treatments will be banned on the platform.
This is disappointing in part because Discord has largely remained decentralized, allowing users to form and regulate private servers, and has stayed out of meddling in what users can and cannot say except for broad, less-intrusive rules.
I’m in charge of moderating Out of Frame’s Discord server, and these rules put us in an awkward position. To comply and keep Discord from banning our server, we must play the role of justices of the Supreme Court, interpreting passages such as:
”Discord users also may not post or promote content that attempts to sway opinion through the use of sensationalized, alarmist, or hyperbolic language, or any content that repeats widely-debunked health claims, unsubstantiated rumors, or conspiratorial narratives.”
“We allow the sharing of personal health experiences; opinions and commentary (so long as such views are based in fact and will not lead to harm); good-faith discussions about medical science and research […]”
Not only do these rules include numerous terms that are subject to interpretation (conspiratorial, good-faith, alarmist) and that would be ambiguous enough to enforce fairly if they didn’t require moderators to be experts in the current scientific consensus regarding any particular medical issue, but they also require us to know the unknowable.