.What a time to be alive. Neo-Nazi’s and white supremacist groups are communicating via instant messaging apps designed for inter-office communication.
The company behind the workplace app, Slack, announced on Thursday that it’s recently removed as many as 28 accounts that were tied to hate groups. A blog post, posted to the company’s website on Thursday claimed that the discovery of the hate groups violated the app’s terms of service. Slack isn’t the first tech company to have issues like this in recent days, but the admission of the problem on Slack’s front highlights a big issue with private messaging systems such as these. If individuals are able to use these apps to organize hate crimes and other forms of hate-speech, how will companies handle privacy in the future?
Slack focused on brevity with its announcement about the discovery of the hate groups this morning. “Today we removed 28 accounts because of their clear affiliation with known hate groups,” said the company in a blog post. “The use of Slack by hate groups runs counter to everything we believe in at Slack and is not welcome on our platform. Slack is designed to help businesses communicate better and more collaboratively so people can do their best work. Using Slack to encourage or incite hatred and violence against groups or individuals because of who they are is antithetical to our values and the very purpose of Slack” it explained further. It’s no surprise that Slack has been used for purposed outside of what it was intended for.
A Workplace App
Slack was released back in 2013. Its focus was to connect workers by offering an instant messaging service catered to common workplace needs. Users could assign tasks and organize chat rooms based on departments. They could also send short memos to one another without leaving their desk. It’s sort of like combining email and a Google Calendar, but in a nifty app. Today, most companies use some form of the software—whether it be Slack or a rival company. More than that, the app has become popular among various clubs and organizations. Its main use is to to keep track of its members and help everyone stay up to date. You could see how this would be an attractive way for Neo-nazi’s to organize and speak in private.
However, that’s against Slack’s terms of service. “When we are made aware of an organization using Slack for illegal, harmful, or other prohibited purposes, we will investigate and take appropriate action and we are updating our terms of service to make that more explicit,” the company explained in the same blog post. Slack isn’t the only online platform to experience issues surrounding organized hate groups. Companies like GoFundMe, Facebook and YouTube are among a few that have struggled to moderate content among their users.
The news about Slack’s removal of the hate groups using the service came after a company called Unicorn Riot published leaked messages between members of a Neo-Nazi group called Identity Evropa. This was the second round of chatroom leaks. The website previously published content posted in apps like Discord from the group. The Neo-Nazi group is reportedly behind organized riots like the “Unite the Right” riot. The event happened just last year in North Carolina. It incited violence and political outrage after the alt-right group expressed explicit antisemitism and racism.
Slack has said that it will continue to remove any accounts found to be tied to groups such as these. Discord has also had issues with similar organizations using its service in recent years.
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.