Discord plans to block NSFW communities and channels on iOS devices

Discord is one of the most popular messaging platforms in existence, with a focus on conversations in dedicated channels and communities (sometimes called ‘servers’) over 1-to-1 communication. However, there is now one catch to using Discord on iOS: servers marked as NSFW are inaccessible.

Discord announced a policy change yesterday (via The Verge), explaining that all adult content should be kept behind an NSFW (‘Not Safe For Work’) warning. The platform has allowed individual channels to be marked as NSFW for years, but now entire communities can have the warning. No one between the ages of 13 and 17 will be able to join or view NSFW communities. If communities with adult content don’t add the warning themselves, Discord may do it on their behalf.

More importantly, NSFW communities and channels will be blocked on all iOS devices, even for people over the age of 18. “iOS users aged 18+ will still be able to join and access NSFW communities on the desktop and web versions of Discord,” the company said.

The move is likely intended to keep Discord on the App Store, as Apple has historically blocked apps that feature or promote adult content. Tumblr famously banned all NSFW content from its platform in 2018, only days after Apple removed its app from the App Store. Tumblr was allowed to return to the App Store shortly afterwards, but not before the platform experienced a mass exodus of users upset at the NSFW ban.

Discord users are already criticizing the company for the new policy, for most of the same reasons that Tumblr users spoke out in 2018. Some believe the move could adversely affect LGBT+ communities (YouTube has a long history of this, for example), while others are concerned that many art communities could be incorrectly marked as NSFW.

It remains to be seen if Discord will lose any significant market share over its new policy. However, it’s not hard to see the platform as stuck between a wall and a hard place — Discord can either play by Apple’s draconian rules, or say goodbye to all iOS users.