Pepe the Frog started out as a meme-perfect cartoon frog, but now the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says he’s been coopted as a symbol of hate.
On September 27, the group added the character—also known as the sad frog—to its Hate on Display database.
The character was created by artist Matt Furie for online comic “Boy’s Club” in 2005, but ADL says that it is increasingly being used to perpetuate racist and anti-Semitic ideas by people who identify with the Alt Right, which it defines as “people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or White supremacy.”
“Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”
Users have manipulated the original image to spread that hate, including depictions of the frog wearing Blackface, a Ku Klux Klan hood and a Nazi uniform. The New York Times reports that the bigoted images were first posted on sites like Reddit and anonymous message board 4chan, before spreading to the rest of the Internet.