Steam has removed icons featuring Matt Furie’s cartoon frog Pepe from its platform, part of Furie’s larger legal battle to wrest the character away from the far right. As reported by Kotaku, users began complaining yesterday that Pepe and Pepe-like emoticons had disappeared from their inventory. The developer of a game called Make America Great Again: The Trump Presidency wrote that they’d removed their emoticons after Steam received a legal order. “If we sign a thing that says [Furie] can sue us and not them Valve will put it back up,” they wrote. “At the moment we're not going to sign that because going to court is... bad even if we're right.”
Furie’s lawyer August Louis Tompros told Kotaku that he didn’t proactively single out Steam. “A Steam user let us know that there were Pepe images being sold on the site, and that they were being used on that site by people in connection with hateful speech. We asked Steam to take those down, and it appears that it has done that.”
Furie has previously pledged to stop anyone from misappropriating Pepe, who originally appeared in the comic Boy’s Club, “in any way that espouses racism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Nazism, or any other form of hate.” He filed a successful complaint against the author of a children’s book that used Pepe’s likeness in a veiled anti-Islam allegory. The connection with hate is less direct here, and Make America Great Again’s developer claims that the banned emoticons are visually distinct from Pepe, although at least one review of the game mentions Pepe by name. But the decision is consistent with Furie’s overall attempt to dampen the Pepe meme — which has drifted into some pretty dark places.