Discord’s new AI features aren’t getting a warm welcome

By 03/10/2023
Discord’s new AI features aren’t getting a warm welcome

Discord is doing AI, and users are not happy about it.

In its latest community update, the communications platform pitched itself as “your place for AI with friends,” while introducing three machine learning-driven tools it said will “supercharge your conversation with friends.”

It also pitched AI as something that’s already popular on Discord, talking up the server for AI “art” generator Midjourney and saying that across its entire platform, there are more than 3 million servers involving some kind of “AI experience.” (If you’re wondering what an “AI experience” means, Discord clarified that there are 3 million servers doing things like “generating gaming assets to […] writing novels with AI, to AI companions, AI companies and AI-based learning communities.”)


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The three tools Discord is introducing include a machine learning version of its mascot Clyde, an AI AutoMod, and AI-generated Conversation Summaries.

Clyde has been around for years as a bot that pings users about errors and can respond to instructions like /kick from server moderators. The reduxed version of Clyde is linked to OpenAI, and can “answer questions and have extended conversations with you and your friends,” per Discord. It can also start threads in servers and recommend playlists. While chatting with users, Clyde can access and use emojis and GIFs “like any Discord user,” Discord says.

As for AutoMod, Discord introduced the non-OpenAI version of it last year to assist human server moderators. Since its introduction, AutoMod has “automatically blocked more than 45 million unwanted messages from servers before they even had a chance to be posted based on server rules,” Discord says.

The OpenAI version of AutoMod will also look for rule-violating messages, but will do so while “keeping in ‘mind’ the context of a conversation,” Discord says. If the AutoMod thinks a user has posted something rule-breaking in a server, it’ll message that server’s moderator.

Last up are Conversation Summaries, which sweeps servers and “bundle[s] streams of messages into topics so you can quickly catch up or join in on what matters most to you.”

AI Clyde is officially rolled out across Discord, but the AI AutoMod and Conversation Summaries are both being tested in a limited number of servers for now.

As a final part of its announcement, Discord said it’s launching an AI incubator where it’ll “[dedicate] resources to developers that want to build AI on Discord.” You can read more about that here.

Wait, you said people were mad?

Now that we’ve given you the rundown on what Discord is doing…yes, people are mad about. Replies to Discord’s tweet about the new tools are pretty much universally negative.

A number of replies express concerns about AI tools being built off art and data scraped without people’s consent, with several commenters pointing out the fact that Discord recently removed two lines from its privacy policy: “We generally do not store the contents of video or voice calls or channels” and “We also don’t store streaming content when you share your screen.”

Someone claiming to be a Discord staffer replied to a Reddit thread about the policy change, saying that Discord is making these changes “to support new product features that we are working on (things like voice messages, allowing you to create short recordings of your streams, and similar features).”

They added, “We understand that the wording of the new privacy policy is broad and can be misunderstood, and we’re looking to improve this to reflect our actual intention, which is not to regularly record your voice and video calls but to support these kinds of features.”

Discord appears to be paying attention to users’ concerns, because it updated its post about the new AI tools to specify that though its tools are hooked to OpenAI, “OpenAI may not use Discord user data to train its general models.”

“Like any other Discord feature, Clyde can only store and use information as described in our Privacy Policy, and Clyde can only access messages sent directly to it or sent in a thread it created,” Discord said. “We also ensured that Clyde does not record, store or use any voice or video call data from users.”

Users’ concerns over having their calls recorded may be sharpened by recent comments from Discord’s president of platform ecosystem, Anjney Midha, who said he considers AI-generated voice tools “completely underrated.”

“I’m pretty confident that within some short amount of time we’ll be talking to all our favourite software and our favourite software will be talking back to us,” he told Bloomberg.

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