The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday named the popular “Pepe the Frog” internet meme a hate symbol.
The meme, which originated from a 2005 cartoon, has been hijacked by the alt-right movement in the past several months. Members of the movement have used the meme to convey often racist and anti-Semitic messages.
“The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted,” the ADL stated in its database of hate symbols. “However, it was inevitable that, as the meme proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who delight in creating racist memes and imagery, a subset of Pepe memes would come into existence that centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.”
The ADL noted that use of the meme has grown as a result of the “controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election.”
“Though Pepe memes have many defenders, not least the character’s creator, Matt Furie, who has called the alt right appropriation of the meme merely a “phase,” the use of racist and bigoted versions of Pepe memes seems to be increasing, not decreasing,” the ADL post said.
The ADL post said it is still “important to examine use of the meme in context” because many “are not bigoted in nature.”
“However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes,” the ADL post said.
The rise of the alt-right movement has been a topic in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, went as far as to condemn the movement in a major speech earlier this year.