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What is Discord, the application used by the Buffalo shooter

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Before killing 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, the 18-year-old suspected shooter left a series of racist posts on the online forum Discord, a popular voice, video and text chat application.

As early as November, the teenager wrote posts on Discord documenting his plan to allegedly murder black people in a mass shooting, according to a compilation of posts reviewed by The Washington Post. Discord said since the messages were only visible to the suspect until he shared them with others on the day of the attack.

Along with WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal, Discord has already been discussed in relation to racist violence. White supremacists who attended a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, in which several counter-protesters were injured or killed, also used private Discord chats to organize ahead of the event.

But the service is much bigger — and more complicated — than those dark times suggest. Discord developed a reputation as a haven for Gen Z and gamers after its launch in 2015. Today, many of its more than 150 million monthly active users don’t talk about games at all. And some say the Discord setup allows for healthier, more engaged online communities.

Claire Bourdon, a software developer in Indiana, joined the app after someone on Reddit mentioned a Discord ‘server’ or community chat, which helps people outside the tech industry learn to code .

Now she visits the server every day to help newbie developers. The age range is wide, she said — from high schoolers to people in their 60s — and a handful of moderating tools keep the vibes healthy, she said. (Bumblebee’s group has a “no foul language” policy, and she’s seen people get fired immediately for making offensive remarks, she said.)

“It’s the healthiest place I’ve been on the internet,” she said.