The UK Treasury has opened an account on Discord to a spate of abuse from users of the gamer-focused chat app – abuse they were able to send despite the government blocking all comments on the service.
As Twitter’s future looks increasingly uncertain, prominent users are preparing alternatives, directing followers to Facebook and Instagram accounts, distributing their mastodon addresses, and setting up servers for chat apps like Discord.
With its community-centric approach, where servers encourage close-knit groups to form and discuss topics related to the overall focus of the topic, Discord seems like an odd addition to the tight-knit world of government communications.
But the app has plenty of users interested in finance, thanks to solid adoption among day traders and crypto fans, two groups the Treasury is keen to connect with.
The result: a read-only Discord server where the only user allowed to post is the crisply named HMTreasurySocialAdmin1, who shares tweet-length messages about the Treasury and the Chancellor.
But trolls always find a way. Although posting is prohibited, emoji reactions are enabled, allowing any user to reply to a post from the treasury with a single emoji, and new users are happily announced in a “welcome channel”.
That means the Treasury Department’s server is busily sending automated messages like “Welcome BLOCK PRINCE ANDREW. Hope you brought some pizza’ and ‘Welcome, Jeremy Corbyn. Say hello!”. The latter does not appear to be the true account of the former opposition leader.
The Treasury Department’s latest official post features reactions including the middle finger emoji, clown emoji, and eggplant emoji commonly used to indicate a penis. Some of the less clearly abusive emoji reactions included the trans rights flag, EU flag and pregnant man emoji protesting government policies in these areas.
Others have welcomed the fact that letters are included in the list of emojis, and more than 100 people appear to have coordinated to try and write the Chancellor’s name, “Hunt,” under the post. Unusually, however, each of them seems to have made the same typo and inadvertently wrote a vulgarity instead.
Although the Treasury Department still has a Twitter account, it wouldn’t be the first major organization to leave the social network after taking over Elon Musk. One of Musk’s first official actions as Twitter boss was to end the company’s legacy verification system and offer verified status to any user who paid £7 a month.
That led to a wave of impersonations, first by Musk himself and later by major advertisers and celebrities on the platform, including Nintendo, Joe Biden, and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
A tweet from a fake verified account attributed to the latter, claiming it would make you insulin-free, was live on the site for more than six hours when representatives scrambled to contact someone on Twitter who had lost half of his life in the last month laid off employees.
As a result of the chaos, the social network rolled out a new level of verification, pulled, reintroduced, pulled, and reintroduced a second time, marking some users as “official” with a gray tick under their name. The move comes too late for a number of big advertisers, including GM, which have suspended all spending on the site until “brand safety” issues are resolved.
However, the company has secured a new advertiser: Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is about to launch a new advertising campaign.
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