On May 25, Motherboard released leaked documents from Facebook stating that certain images of Pepe the Frog memes would be banned from the social media network.
The #PepeBan is an about face on Facebook’s content moderation policies, which allow fictional characters to be used in a “questionable” (Read: offensive) manner. A ban on some Pepe images represents a departure from that policy.
“Pepe the Frog has been endorsed by many hate groups to convey hateful messages,” Facebook wrote in a training manual for moderators.
The now publicly-available training manual uses an example of Facebook users posting images of Homer Simpson with a Nazi symbol next to him. Even if this image was flagged by other users, moderators are instructed not to remove it. On the other hand, Pepe is “different,” because the character is associated with “hate groups.”
The distinction for Pepe memes was released in the leaked training manual. There are two images of Pepe displayed — one with the character looking at his hands with his usual charmingly sad but chill face — and the other with him wearing a Nazi uniform, with animated ashes rising from a chimney in the background. Facebook moderators were instructed in the manual that the first image is appropriate, but the second image should be removed and result in such actions as a temporary ban.
“[This applies to] Pepe the Frog when he is shown in the context of hate,” the manual states. What a bunch of ashflakes.
What led to this particular meme being singled out? One guess. If you said “The ADL,” congratulations, you’re not a complete idiot. For the rest of you, mentally haze yourselves and promise to do better. “They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media,” ADL’s chief executive Jonathan A Greenblatt said when the group marked Pepe as a hate symbol. The ADL listed Pepe as a hate symbol back in 2016, leading to a Pepe ban on Apple’s iOS App Store in June of 2017, but the group has been renewing efforts to have the cartoon banned on social media recently as well, and it seems they are making headway on Facebook. Not that we…or Elon Musk are terribly surprised.
I’d like to ask all of you to stand in solidarity with Pepe, by sharing your dankest Pepe memes on Facebook, with #GreenLivesMatter #FreePepe.