Pepe the Frog just made a big leap.
The popular Internet meme – co-opted by the racist Alt-Right movement and widely used on social media – was officially designated Tuesday as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL added the cartoon character to its online “Hate on Display” database, a 16-year-old collection that contains more than 150 symbols and images representing bigotry or hate.
Pepe the Frog is commonly “used by haters on social media to suggest racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted notions,” the ADL said in a statement announcing the hate-symbol designation.
“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’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.
“These anti-Semites have no shame,” Greenblatt said. “They are abusing the image of a cartoon character — one that might at first seem appealing — to harass and spread hatred on social media.”
The cartoon character didn’t originally have anti-Semitic connotations. But “as the meme proliferated in online venues such as 4chan, 8chan and Reddit, a subset of memes came into existence promoting anti-Jewish, bigoted and offensive ideas,” the ADL statement said.
“Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like moustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter,” the ADL statement said.
Such racist usage of the meme has “spread virally on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere,” the ADL said.
Pepe isn’t the only meme used to spread social media hate.
Alt-right social-media activists – a collection of white supremacists, white nationalists and nativists opposed to immigration – have been using the (((echoes))) symbol for months, frequently in supporting the presidential candidacy and views of Donald Trump.
The ADL added the (((echoes))) symbol to its hate-symbol database in June.
The (((echoes))) symbols are used by racists in an attempt to identify what they believe are Jewish-controlled institutions or Jewish individuals, including journalists and political figures. The SPLC was included in a Google Chrome extension “Coincidence Detector” that automatically displayed (((echoes))) around names in the browser, (((SPLC))) for example. The extension was removed from the Google app store in June.
“The echo’s popularity online signifies both the alarming increase in vocal and visible anti-Semitism associated with the Trump campaign and, in a practical sense, its limits,” the general interest news site Vox explained in June.