Late last year, Roblox responded to concerns about user safety by blindsiding developers with a blanket ban on all links and mentions of Discord.
This completely crippled the communities of Roblox developers and prevented us from competing with major triple-A titles. It was also completely ineffective at keeping users safe. Let’s break this post down into several major arguments:
Let me give you some numbers that should startle you. The Official Fortnite Discord Server (160,659) has just barely twice the members of the Berezaa Games Discord Server (77,156). Jailbreak’s server isn’t far behind with 60,455 members at the time of writing. The unofficial Roblox fan server trails behind at 37,246 members.
Holy crap! These Discord servers are almost on the same league as Fortnite!! The single biggest gaming phenomenon of the year! If these servers are doing so well, what’s the problem?
The problem is that almost all of these members are from before the blanket ban on Discord. This ban happened many months ago and since then my server has barely gained five thousand members. In fact, you can tell by how many online users these servers have that they have been completely crippled by the ban.
Had this ban not been put in place, the largest Roblox Discord servers would be rivaling, if not completely surpassing almost all major triple-A titles. We would have some of the largest organized communities on the entire internet!
These days, almost everyone uses Discord to communicate. Developers use it to seek out and hire other developers, and to commission artists, musicians and builders to make their games come to life. The Roblox Developer Relations team even uses it as their primary channel for directly communicating with developers!
As a developer, it is incredibly difficult to reach out to other developers of interest on the Roblox platform. Most have messages disabled, and it is hard to distinguish messages from fans, spam from bots and legitimate offers from other developers. Moreover, the aggressive filter makes it difficult to discuss scripts or numbers on the platform, as almost everything is censored out.
Because of this, Discord has become the primary method of communication between developers. The app makes it incredibly easy to filter incoming messages and it promotes responsive and instant communication.
However, because of the blanket ban it is difficult to come into contact with many of the developers that I would like to work with. It’s much more difficult for up-and-coming developers to reach out and make connections as well.
Finally, the ban against Discord servers hurts small creators the most. Developers with new or niche games need a strong foundation of players to keep their game alive. Discord servers were a great way to organize this, helping these fledgling developers grow their games while also receiving valuable bug reports and feature requests that they otherwise would not have access to.
This was the biggest reason for the ban on Discord, and in my opinion also the weakest. Why? Because all of the organized Roblox Discord servers have extensive policy to protect young users and trained moderation teams to enforce this policy.
A community isn’t able to grow in the first place without this foundation! This is why almost every server has a #rules page and a dedicated moderation team to enforce it. Those that don’t are simply unable to thrive!
Developers have it in their best interest to create safe communities for their users, and the very few that don’t can simply be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
"But stuff in Discord servers isn’t publicly accessible, how can Roblox be assured that users are safe?"
This is the main argument against Discord, but the problem is that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Twitch, which are all expressly allowed by Roblox and can even be added to a developers profile, all have some extensive form of hidden information. Twitter has DM’s, group DM’s and private accounts. Twitter has nudity and gore that isn’t difficult to find. Facebook has private groups, private pages and private messages. YouTube and Twitch both have private messages and Twitch has even recently added private chatrooms to livestreams.
All of these sites require their users to be 13+. User saftey can not be guaranteed on any of these websites. In fact, out of all of them Twitter is probably the most dangerous for its lax policy on child safety and rampant proliferation of vulgar or politically charged content. However all of these sites are allowed by Roblox.
Discord is no more dangerous than any of the other social media platforms that are allowed and even expressly promoted by Roblox. With the right tools, organized Roblox Discord Servers are some of the safest places on the internet.
Here’s what Roblox should do:
Display a warning prompt for children and parents warning them that they are leaving Roblox and going to a site that is 13+ and unaffiliated with the company. Warn children to check with their parents before proceeding.
That’s it. Roblox is trying to avoid bad PR by banning a potentially dangerous site. But all they have done is crippled the potential of Roblox communities while not protecting their users one bit.
When open discussion about Discord is banned, shady and dangerous Discord links will proliferate more than safe, moderated ones will.
It doesn’t take a long hard search to find people getting crafty with ways of overriding the Roblox filter and sharing their communities anyway. The only users who aren’t willing to risk this are the same experienced high-profile developers who have the safest communities. Discord is still being shared, just not by the users you want sharing it.
Roblox communities could be competing with major AAA titles, but we’re not. Roblox is missing out on tons of organic word-of-mouth growth, hamstringing major developers and suppressing new creators from gaining momentum, all while end user safety isn’t improved one bit. Is this really the right way to go?
Thanks for reading my arguments. Feel free to add on or comment with your thoughts down below.