On July 4th, popular chat platform Discord removed the group S2 Underground from its service.
S2 Underground describes themselves on their website as “a covert intelligence agency, run by volunteers, with the goal of combating propaganda efforts, tyranny, human trafficking, and terrorism around the world.” The Discord server was a place to share links and updates from around the world in the midst of COVID-19 and large-scale civil unrest.
All user accounts associated with the group were apparently deleted as well. Many of these accounts (mine included) were simply “idling” in the S2 Underground chat and were not active participants or contributors. An estimated 1,400-1,500 accounts were removed. Discord provided neither a warning nor a statement surrounding the decision, but a generic e-mail did go out to affected persons.
A single Twitter post about the removal was made by analyst Megan Squire (‘ANTIFA’s secret weapon‘). The removal was otherwise quiet.
No Warning, Questionable Rationale
The S2 Underground server was closed and connected accounts were removed without warning. A generic e-mail about a violation of Discords Terms of Service went out. Below is the e-mail I received:
I barely used Discord, but my account was idling in the S2 Underground chatroom. My only interaction had been joining the chat months ago and saying hello to the admin. I have never made threats against anyone or incited violence, etc. I’d be surprised if I typed more than 10 words in the channel. Discord is welcome to try and prove me wrong; I’ve had practically zero interaction of any variety on the S2 Underground server.
Others are also confused by the decision.
S2 Underground: The BoogBois Who Weren’t
S2 mainly releases content on Instagram and via podcasts. The subject matter S2 tends to focus on is lesser-published political events, government and police overreach, privacy, security, intelligence gathering, and equipment or supply considerations for the American civilian.
Many of their podcasts are centered on surviving potential civil unrest, understanding the surveillance technologies employed by the modern police force, and offering insights into gear like concealable body armor.
If anything, the S2 Underground content falls into the category of alt-media / prepping. En Bloc Press is not affiliated with S2 Underground, and their identities are obviously concealed. But from listening to their podcast and seeing some of their content, I’d wager a guess that at least some of the personalities involved are/were U.S. military intelligence analysts or similar. This is me making an educated guess; its op-ed.
The content produced by S2 Underground has a similar feel to military communications. For example, the S2 Underground podcast episode about the Minneapolis riots is titled “Minneapolis Riots AAR/Lessons Learned”. “AAR” here means “After-Action Review”. An AAR is a structured protocol used by the U.S. military to scrutinize outcomes of missions and sorties. For example, if a rifle platoon engages an enemy while on a mission, afterwards there will be an AAR where the unit’s leadership discusses the summary of events and what went well (sustain), what didn’t go well (improve), and any other items worth considering.
My point is that while S2 Underground’s content may look militant to the casual observer or layperson, that’s probably because the content is compiled by people with a military background. There isn’t anything inherently militant or violent about assessing your home’s security and the state of your supplies in the event that civil unrest breaks out and emergency services are delayed or unavailable. But when it’s compiled and released in a format similar to a briefing, I suppose that amateur analysts or decision-makers at companies like Discord would err on the side of caution.
Discord Goes Woke
Discord was originally designed for gamers. And while Discord is still popular with gamers, its anonymity-friendly policies also made it a popular platform for the alt-right, or anyone with an interest in hiding their identities.
This came to a head for Discord after the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ tragedy in Charlottesville, VA. Per Slate, white supremacist groups had used Discord servers to coordinate the event. And now people were injured or killed.
Discord took steps in 2018 to remedy the situation, and has continued to attract a growing number of users. Earlier this year, Discord deleted a large “Boogaloo” group, removing over 2,200 users, per Vice.
Days ago, Discord distanced themselves from their traditional gaming-centric base. In an attempt to capture a wider audience, Discord posted a release on their official blog stating their platform is for everyone, not just gamers.
It would appear that as Discord takes steps to appeal to the mainstream user, any group they view as “off brand” will be removed, whether or not they have in fact violated any Discord Community Guidelines.
By shutting out white supremacists and reinventing itself to be more accessible, Discord has added millions of more diverse users—teachers, Boy Scouts, book clubs, Black Lives Matter protestors—and landed a $100 million infusion from investors.Forbes
And while S2 Underground did nothing wrong — the group is openly anti-violent and anti-racist — that doesn’t really matter. Discord’s profit incentive outweighs the cost of actually taking the time to actually consider what S2 Underground is about.
S2 Underground has since moved to chat app Keybase.
En Bloc Press is an independent project that is not corporately owned. If you enjoy this content or find it useful, please join our e-mail newsletter for updates and consider making a purchase at our merchandise store.