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The "OK" hand gesture, commonly regarded as a way of showing that everything is good, is now classified as something else: a symbol of hatred.
On Thursday, the Libel Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, added 36 symbols to its Display Hate database, including a finger-to-finger sign, which in some corners of the Internet has been linked to white supremacy and far right.
Oren Segal, director of the ADL Extremism Center, told NPR that for years on fringe online message boards, such as 4chan and 8chan, the "OK" sign has been posted in memes and other hate-promoting images. Given the number of white supremacists who accepted him, he said he could now carry a malicious message.
"Context is always key," Segal said. "More people will use the OK symbol as just 'OK'. But in those cases where it is more important, I think it's important for people to understand that it can be used for hatred as well. "
According to the Know Your Meme website, as a joke, 4chan users launched a social media flood in 2017 with posts linking the OK gesture to the white power movement. Commenters on the message board appropriated the images of people posing at the White House and elsewhere, making the hand symbol as evidence that it is being grasped.
Segal says that while many of these images have been misinterpreted by users of online message boards, the number to the people who send hate while singing
Segal raised doubts about a white supreme in Christchurch, New Zealand, accused of killing 51 worshipers in two mosques in March, flashing with a gesture of "OK" during initial court appearance.
"Over the past few years, we have seen that fraud has been substantially successful in its application by actual white supremacists," Segal said.
"In many ways, they took what was trolling and added it to their list of characters," he added.
ADL created its Hate of Impression Database in 2000 as a way to help track hate groups and their enforcement symbols, educators and other members of the public in the hope of spotting potential warning signs of anti-Semitism and other types extremism. The database has since grown to 214 records.
One of the better known additions to the database, in September 2016, was Pepe the Frog, a green cartoon with big eyes that became a kind of mascot of the alt-right.
Other characters among the 36 added on Thursday include "Dylann Roof's Rooftop Bowlcut" – a reference to a hairstyle worn by the white supreme artillery killer who killed nine African-Americans at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC
Roof's followers have included distinctive hairstyles in screen names such as "Bowltrash" or "The Final Bowlution" or collectively "Saints" The Bowl Gang, according to the ADL.
Another addition is The Man of the Moon, a meme extracted from McDonald's commercials of the 1980s, which has since been abducted by members of the alt-right, who attach racist songs, language, and images.
Symbols of the white nationalist group in the database include the "Rise over Southern California" movement, which, according to the ADL, states that it has "the purpose of combating the" destructive cultural influences "of liberals, Jews, Muslims, and non-white immigrants . "
The ADL also introduced the newly formed American Identity Movement, which is the rebranding of identity Europe considered one of the largest white overseas groups. Members of the group participated in the Join the Right rally in Charlotteville in 2017, leading until the death of the woman and some members were "doxed", which is when someone's private information is shared publicly online. "For all practical purposes, AIM is essentially an identity of Europe with a new name and logo," ADL stated.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL, stated in a statement that old symbols, gestures and other images quickly acquire new, hateful associations that may be too vague for the general public to understand.
"We believe law enforcement and the public must be completely informed of the importance of these images, which can serve as the first warning sign for the presence of hatches in a community or school, "he said.