From a Discord Flex to a High Treason is the short path

Why did a member of Discord share his classified material? Defense of the 17-year-old who was arrested in connection with the Discord leak

A member of the private online chatting room defended the man who was charged in connection to the leak, saying he shared the classified material to keep other members informed.

Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guard member who was arrested, was “like a father figure to me,” said the chatroom member known online as Vahki, who said he is 17. The pair had similar tastes in video games, fitness and Christianity.

It wasn’t pushing these to teens for power. Vahki told CNN on a social media platform that he explained to Teixeira the motivation for sharing his documents. “It was more like showing these to friends, so we won’t be shocked by the news cycles. And we know what’s going on with our tax dollars.”

The scandal has put a spotlight on how a new generation of US military personnel socialize online and the risks that come with gaming platforms like Discord where anonymity is cherished. The US military has used Discord for recruiting but also warned service members as recently as last month not to “post anything in Discord that you wouldn’t want seen by the general public.”


On the friendship of Teixeira and Vahki in Thug Shaker Central, and what they have to say about the war in Ukraine

Vahki said their friendship grew over the last four or five years, saying they played video games in which they fought zombies and built their own virtual worlds.

Teixeira and Vahki were both members of an obscure Discord chatroom called Thug Shaker Central that featured memes and talk of guns and religion. Photos of the classified documents later ended up on a second Discord chatroom, known as End of Wow Mao Zone, in March, before spreading to a pro-Russia Telegram and to Twitter.

Vahki said that members of the gang were strict in their membership. “Usually, you had to either know a member IRL [in real life], or play with us online enough for us to sort of trust you. It was like a voting system.”

Asked if anyone in Thug Shaker Central was concerned the leaked documents could affect the war in Ukraine and the lives of soldiers there, Vahki claimed the documents were never intended to be made public.

Vahki has not been contacted by the FBI as part of the investigation. He was in a bad place after his friend was arrested.

What the Pentagon Leaked: How Jack Teixeira and the Ghost of Kyiv shared in a private Discord chat group were related to YouTube videos and Minecraft

“Information is power, so the saying goes.” It’s online and specific to niche communities that proffering information earns you clout. Look no further than last week’s Pentagon document leak: Clout-chasing and a culture of one-upmanship appear to have motivated Massachusetts National Guard Jack Teixeira to share top secret information about the US government’s approach to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with his buddies in a private Discord group. The group was named after a meme and it focused on gaming and obsessiveness over Oxide. Dropping top secret government intel in this kind of community is a real flex.

Emily Dreyfuss is the co-author of the book Meme Wars: the Untold Stories of the OInline Battles Upending Democracy in America. Williams was co-author of the report, “PRESIDENT Trump IS CALLING US TO FIGHT”, about January 6. The technology and social change team at Harvard University is led by two authors.

According to the forensic internet sleuths at Bellingcat, someone on this private server shared the documents in another open Discord group devoted to a different YouTuber, WowMao, then in a popular Minecraft server, and from there to the open internet. The flex had become a national embarrassment and was a grounds for charges of violating the US Espionage Act. The FBI took Texeira into custody. These days, the path from clout-chasing to treason can be very short.

Logs of the conversation in which the Ghost of Kyiv was first conjured out of thin air bear a striking resemblance to the conversations reported to have taken place on the Thug Shaker Central Discord server.

The top secret information Texiera shared in the private chat group is, of course, real. After he first uploaded the documents to the Thug Shaker Central server, people quickly began sharing them more widely. But it’s unclear whether these users knew, or cared, if the leaked documents were real. This shows troubling realities around knowledge creation and the internet.

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