Entire servers can now be marked as NSFW if their community “is organized around NSFW themes or if the majority of the server’s content is 18+.” This label will be a requirement going forward, and Discord will proactively mark servers as NSFW if they fail to self-identify. Discord previously allowed individual channels to be marked as NSFW and age-gated.
The NSFW marker does two things. First, it prevents anyone under the age of 18 from joining. But the bigger limitation is that it prevents NSFW servers from being accessed on iOS devices — a significant restriction that’s almost certainly meant to cater to Apple’s strict and often prudish rules around nudity in services distributed through the App Store. Tumblr infamously wiped porn from its entire platform in order to come into compliance with Apple’s rules.
There’s two things happening here. There’s the tighter restrictions by Discord, which I think are reasonable – you don’t want minors or adults who simply aren’t interested in rowdier conversations to accidentally walk into channels where people are discussing sex, nudity, or porn. Labeling these channels as such is, while not a panacea, an understandable move, also from a legal standpoint. I still think sex and nudity are far, far, far less damaging or worrisome than the insane amounts of brutal violence children get exposed to in movies, TV series, games, and the evening news, but I understand American culture sees these things differently.
Then there’s Apple’s demands placed on Discord. This is an absolutely bizarre move by Apple on so many levels. First, the line between porn and mere nudity is often vague and nebulous, such as in paintings or others forms of art. This could be hugely impactful to art communities sharing the things they work on. Second, Discord is primarily a platform for close-knit groups of friends, and if everyone in your friend group is over 18, there’s going to be discussions and talk about sex, nudity, porn, and other things adults tend to talk about from time to time, just as there are in real life. None of these two – art and casual conversation – are criminal, bad, or negative in any way.
And third, and this is the big one, these restrictions Apple is placing on Discord do not apply to Apple’s own applications. iMessage serves much the same function as Discord does, yet there’s no NSFW markers, 18+ warnings, or bans on such content on iMessage. Other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the damn web through Safari, provide access to far vaster collections of the most degenerate pornography mankind ever wrought, and yet, Apple isn’t banning them either.
This just goes to show that, once again, that iPhone isn’t really yours. Apple decides how you get to use it, and you’re merely along for the $1000 ride. Android may have its problems, but at least I don’t have Tim Cook peeping over my shoulder to see if I’m looking at something he deems lewd.