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Discord has turned into a virtual trade floor with memes, stonks, and chaos

An online casino

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A real-life trading floor is noisy. You can find traders shouting at each other, especially when the markets are volatile and stock is moving fast. That same environment has been replicated online this week, thanks to Discord.

Getting inside offers a surreal look at an emerging virtual trade floor where people are yelling at each other to invest into GameStop or AMC stocks. Dozens of people join the server every second, and one channel has a stream of memes that looks like pure chaos.

Welcome to the world of r/WallStreetBets.

The r/WallStreetBets Discord server.
The r/WallStreetBets Discord server.

Discord is usually the tool of choice for gamers to communicate with friends, Twitch streamers to grow a community, or just small groups of people to share similar interests. It’s a hugely popular app, with more than 100 million monthly active users. The Reddit community r/WallStreetBets has turned to Discord in recent weeks to organize and communicate in real time, as it seeks to force hedge funds into losing millions of dollars on their bets against struggling retail companies like GameStop and AMC.

Amateur traders are flocking to the Discord server to discuss stock movements, share memes, and participate in what feels like an online game. Every post is littered with emoji reactions that fly off the page within seconds, and the calls are full of people shouting “buy GameStop” or “hold GMC” as stock prices go up and down throughout the day.

At times it feels like it only takes one person to shout something on a call or spam a meme enough times for it to catch on and everyone to run with it. I witnessed hundreds of people hit Twitch yesterday to spam “save AMC” in a variety of live streams. Rapper Soulja Boy’s Twitch stream was swarmed with the messages, after calls to visit his stream. But the group failed to convince him to tweet about the struggling theater chain.

The Discord calls and many of the memes are often full of profanity or racial slurs, leading Discord to ban the r/WallStreetBets server last night. It quickly came back to life a few hours later, though, and has already amassed 200,000 members.

“Can we just get one minute of therapeutic silence,” asked someone on the main Discord call yesterday. A few seconds of silence passed before the ask was met with fart sounds, high-pitched music, and sound boards. The members often joke about the FBI or SEC listening in, which prompts many to spam the “FBI, open up!” audio meme.

After last night’s Discord server ban, r/WallStreetBets is rebuilding its Discord community, but a split has emerged. There are now two Discord servers, with an unofficial one at 88,000 members.

Misinformation is common throughout these Discord servers. In the official one, a discussion broke out about the potential for a US-led war to impact stock markets. “There is going to be a war, 100 percent,” claimed one Discord user. “I’m going to bring my gaming chair into the war,” joked another. Fake Elon Musk memes are also as popular as the man himself among this group. “The only thing I want in life is for Elon Musk to tell me I’m beautiful,” said one Discord user praising the Tesla CEO.

Among all the chaos and fake Elon Musk memes, there is some relative organization on the server with calmer heads providing tips to amateur traders. “Only put money in that you can afford to lose,” is a common piece of advice. New members often join and want to know what stock to invest in, but are quickly met with “we are not financial advisors” or “buy what you feel like buying” responses.

I’ve also witnessed what sound like day traders teaching people the basics of options, market retracements, and how to create charts with technical indicators and overlays. Robinhood has made buying and selling stocks as easy as posting a photo to Instagram, and those new to this experiment are eager to learn more.

Others, who have clearly been part of the r/WallStreetBets community for more than a few days, are also quick to advise new members not to try trial broker accounts with fake money for too long. “You need to get used to the emotional reality of a market open,” said one Discord member.

The advice is often interrupted by excitement as GameStop or AMC shares reach new highs. At one point this morning GameStop hit $420 a share in premarket trading, which was met by cheers and surprise on the Discord call.

I personally spend large parts of my day on Discord, but I’ve still never seen anything quite like the r/WallStreetBets server — even in groups with 300,000 members. Dozens of people join every second, and at times it has forced Discord to crash on my high-end gaming PC or take up lots of CPU resources. Even on my iPhone it kills my battery and makes my phone hot to touch.

The question now is how long this mass organized movement can continue on Discord, and the amount of time left in the grand GameStop stock price game. After a ban for “hateful and discriminatory content,” the official r/WallStreetBets Discord server seems less chaotic. But r/WallStreetBets describes itself as “like 4chan found a Bloomberg Terminal,” and a lot of the Reddit comments contain offensive language.

r/WallStreetBets feels like The Button, an online meta-game that first appeared on Reddit for April Fools’ Day in 2015. Redditors rushed to push a button on a 60-second timer that would reset every time it was clicked. It inspired devotion and obsession much like this GameStop stock rally, and even spawned religions and cults.

The Button ended more than two months after its introduction when the timer finally hit zero with no attempts to reset it. There’s no timer here on this Discord and Reddit trade floor experiment, and nobody really knows exactly how and when it’s going to end.