Just a hop, skip and a jump away from mainstream gaming communities is a nebulous underbelly that plays host to a community of young hackers, fledgling criminals and observers, known as “The Comm.”
The Comm is located across multiple Discord servers, and its alleged membership is composed of primarily young men, some of whom have allegedly already been arrested for offenses ranging from cyberstalking to firing multiple handgun rounds into someone’s home.
@motherboardvice We spent weeks immersed in the world of the Comm, a nebulous community of young hackers, aggressive criminals, and people just hanging out on Discord. #discord #minecraft #callofduty #cod #crime #vice #news ♬ original sound - Motherboard
Investigating The Comm, VICE reporter Joseph Cox found a community of people whose behavior was escalating into increasingly violent and disturbing acts, all shared on video for the benefit of their fellow members. In particular, Cox writes of a video showing dry blood smeared across a Macbook Pro, or a set of photos of a young man in his underwear, restrained with zip ties, being threatened with an injection of heroin unless he hands over his cryptocurrency.
While Cox was sent footage of many alleged Comm-related crimes, including robberies, hacking and grooming of young girls, verifying each incident proved incredibly difficult. Some crimes by alleged Comm members have made the news, however, including those of a New Jersey man who was charged with firing multiple handgun rounds into someone’s home, and Braiden Williams, who allegedly cyberstalked a young girl and her sister.
NEW: "The Comm" is a Discord community of mostly teens who swat, brick, kidnap, harass, and threaten each other for clout. Partially grew out of Minecraft/Roblox communities:https://t.co/5cp7DID6gN— Jason Koebler (@jason_koebler) June 20, 2023
Unlawfully obtaining cryptocurrency in order to fund their increasingly lavish lifestyles appears to be another key component of Comm membership. Williams, who is being investigated for cyberstalking, had previously been arrested on SIM swapping charges. SIM swapping is when hackers take over a target’s phone number, sometimes by tricking a telecom employee. Once hackers are able to redirect two-factor authentication messages to themselves, they can access the victim’s accounts, often focusing on accounts relating to cryptocurrency such as Coinbase.
One member told Cox they found the Comm through Call of Duty; another, through Minecraft. Many people in Comm-affiliated Discord servers use Discord as thousands of others do — i.e., they play games, post memes and share selfies. Misogyny is the coin of the realm, with many users sharing examples of harassment they’ve subjected women to, including one member who claimed to have swatted a girl for the crime of blocking him.
Unlike traditional social media, Discord is an example of “dark social” — many servers are invite-only, affording members a degree of privacy they don’t have elsewhere. Concerns have previously been raised about the ease with which predators can communicate with children over Discord, and with knowledge of the Comm becoming more widespread, it seems inevitable that concerns around Discord and the communities it plays host to will only continue to grow.