Facebook’s internal policies on Pepe the Frog — now considered an anti-Semitic hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League — offer a little leeway for what is allowed on its platform. Documents obtained by Motherboard show that the platform doesn’t outright ban Pepe images, but rather, it only deletes them if shown “in the context of hate, endorsed by hate groups to convey hateful messages.”
While Pepe began his life as a cute, relatable meme, bad actors have since co-opted the character for their own hateful ideals. Pepe’s creator, Matt Furie, has officially killed the character and even gone as far as sending takedown notices to alt-right sites and suing conspiracy theorist site Infowars for MAGA posters it sold featuring the character.
Facebook is well-aware of this dark history, noting in its “Dangerous Organizations” training manual for moderators that “Pepe the Frog has been endorsed by many hate groups to convey hateful messages.” Its decision to ban these hateful images is notable because it marks a change from the company’s usual policy. As Motherboard’s documents show, fictional characters or settings portrayed in the context of hate are strictly to be left alone. Even if, as one example shows, they include Homer Simpson’s skull stamped with a swastika.