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Consider somebody is running a Discord server that allows for NSFW content. They use the NSFW tag on the relevant channels, so as to defer to Discord's own "I am over 18" button for verification in order to access them. This is equivalent to every adult content site on the internet.

However, in discussing this with a friend, he has said that server "owners" are required by law to ask for ID to verify age. It was also mentioned that in the event a minor is exposed to adult content, then the server "owners" might be culpable, despite the compliance with Discord's ToS and employing the "I am over 18" check that other adult content sites use. I am aware of the Online Safety Bill, but that does not seem to be in effect yet and no adult content websites are asking for ID to UK users.

Are Discord server "owners" (note that this is not ownership in a property sense; it is more like an administrator or manager) required to ask for ID, then?


Update (07-Dec-2023): It's still not clear to me what the answer is. Looking at the Online Safety Act, it could be implies that server "owners" could be obliged to implement age verification. However, it is not clear who is really responsible here, since Discord offer their own mechanism for tagging NSFW content, and then use their own "I am over 18" button to allow access to it - this would seem to imply that Discord are responsible, but this is not clear, and it appears as though it could be interpreted both ways. Perhaps it is the case that either interpretation could be argued, and thus both the server "owner" and Discord should both be responsible for age verification - though clearly the lawyers advising adult content websites do not think there is any danger in sticking to the conventional "I am over 18" button, since they all still do this.

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  • The relevant law is the Online Safety Act which came into law in 2023. It sets out who is responsible for age checks. Have fun reading it!
    – Stuart F
    Dec 5, 2023 at 12:30
  • @StuartF thank you. I'm not entirely clear if the server owner would qualify as being the service provider or not. Server owners don't pay for anything, and it is more akin to creating a group on Facebook, than it is purchasing a domain and hosting. This is where things get a bit tricky. I will contact Discord and ask them myself. Though, one further thing: it seems that no sites are currently compliant with that bill, as none of the top sites, nor even Google, ask for ID verification to determine the age of the user before allowing them to see explicit material. Is that bill being enforced?
    – thephpdev
    Dec 6, 2023 at 3:40
  • @StuartF Maybe thats worth turning into an answer then? Dec 10, 2023 at 19:02

1 Answer 1

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Answering from discord's Community guidelines:

-Do not make sexually explicit content available to anyone under the age of 18. You must be age 18 or older to participate in adult content on Discord. You must apply an age-restricted label to any channels that contain sexually explicit content or any other content shared solely for the purposes of sexual gratification.

-Do not post sexually explicit content in user avatars, custom statuses or bios, server banners, server icons, invite splashes, emoji, stickers, or any other space that cannot be age-restricted.

Then from the top of the same page:

Our Trust & Safety team reviews reports by users, moderators, or trusted reporters. When someone violates these guidelines, we may take a number of enforcement steps against them, including issuing warnings, removing content, suspending or removing the accounts and/or servers responsible, and potentially reporting them to law enforcement. We may consider relevant off-platform behaviour when assessing for violations of specific Community Guidelines.

And finally from discords Terms of Service:

To access the services on an ongoing basis, you will need to create a Discord account. You can provide a username and password, and a way of contacting you (such as an email address and/or phone number). You’ll also need to provide your birthday. In some cases, you may be required to verify your account or provide additional information.

So no, nowhere in the ToS or community guidelines is any responsibility on server owners to verify their users stated, though it would seem that owners are culpable if they knowingly expose explicit content to minors and could be potentially reported to local law enforcement. Additionally it seems that discord can require age verification - though I suspect this would more be for users under the age of 13 (ToS minimum age).

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  • Thank you. Although, it's still not clear if the terms of service absolve the server owner of responsibility in the event a minor is exposed, unknowingly, to adult content. It seems that every only service where adult content is allowed does not conform to the Online Safety Act, since none of the mainstream services ask me for ID.
    – thephpdev
    Dec 6, 2023 at 3:48
  • It seems to me this is answering wrt discords rules, but the question is about the Online Safety Act 2023. That seems to me to depend on who is offering the "user-to-user service". I would have guessed this is discord, but if they do not do it could the actual controller of the "server" be held liable? What discord writes seems tangential to that question.
    – User65535
    Dec 6, 2023 at 8:39
  • @User65535 yeah and it's not clear from reading the Online Safety Act who is defined as the service provider. That was my gripe with Stuart F's comment under my question.
    – thephpdev
    Dec 7, 2023 at 3:37

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