Twitter appears to have found its new public enemy no.1 and the unfortunate target of its wrath if ‘Pepe The Frog’.
Shoe (@shoe0nhead), a Twitter user with more than 400k followers on Twitter, was censored because the account had a Twitter header with Pepe the Frog on it.
Twitter told the user, “You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header.” The user’s Pepe header apparently violated rules against posting ‘hateful imagery’.
What is ‘Pepe The Frog’ meme?
‘Pepe The Frog’, one of the most popular internet memes of all time, was originated in the non-political comic “Boy’s Club” by Matt Furie in 2005. The comic featured Pepe along with his three roommates, all living together and hanging out. In 2008, Pepe made it into internet stardom, however, it was mostly non-political.
In the following years, more and more social users started using Pepe, and many were coming up with their own version of memes. Pepe became a versatile meme, showing all sorts of emotions and became one of the most used memes on the internet.
As Pepe grew stronger and reached mainstream status, the memes took a political turn. The memes of ‘Pepe The Frog’ were used by varied section across the internet but was mostly associated with conservatives and right-wing social media users. Conservatives and right-wing users aggressively used the Pepe meme to put out their content on social media platforms.
Soon, ‘Pepe The Frog’ had to face the left-liberals’ wrath in the United States, who categorised these memes as ‘an alt-right campaign’ to associate Pepe with ‘white nationalism’. With Donald Trump tweeting an image of ‘Pepe The Frog’ in the run-up to the Presidential elections, the comic began to receive more hate from ‘left-liberals’ in the US.
In 2016, Hilary Clinton’s campaign website denounced Pepe and called it “a symbol associated with white supremacy.” In September 2016, the Anti-Defamation League officially added Pepe The Frog to its database of hate symbols. Since this designation, the social media platforms have found urgency in deleting posts that feature the ‘Pepe The Frog’ meme.
Ironically, the liberals had hailed the protesters in Hong Kong, who used the ‘Pepe the Frog’ as a symbol of their resistance to rally against police brutality and Hong Kong’s extradition bill in 2019. Interestingly, nobody opposed the usage of the symbol of ‘white nationalism’ – the ‘Pepe The Frog’ by the Hong Kong protestors as it supported their political narrative then.
However, with Twitter now openly censoring contents that features ‘Pepe The Frog’, the conservatives and right-wing users have now condemned the actions of Twitter to accuse the micro-blogging site of deliberately silencing their voices on its platform.
Twitter displays its left-bias, censures contents posted by nationalists, conservatives
Concerns regarding Twitter’s left-wing bias regarding censorship have been a dominant concern for quite some time. The platform has been accused of engaging in politically motivated censorship to censor political opinions it does not agree with. Twitter has time-and-again stated openly that it posses a left-wing bias and has been actively targeting users who post nationalistic contents or expose the lies of left-liberals.
In the run-up to the US elections, Twitter played a significant role in censoring content inconvenient to Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden. Following the elections, Twitter conveniently banned Donald Trump and his supporters from the platform, citing their alleged role in the Capitol Hill violent protests in January and spreading ‘misinformation’ related to the presidential elections.
Not just in the US, Twitter has also displayed its own bias towards left-wing accounts and has often targeted nationalist accounts. A few days back, Twitter had forced a user in India to delete a tweet highlighting Hindu victims of the Godhra massacre. The arbitrary diktat to the users to delete tweets highlighting the Hindu victims of the Godhra massacre came just a few days after the platform had refused to block accounts and tweets that peddled incendiary fake news capable of inciting law and order unrest in the country during the farmer protests.
A major controversy has erupted in the country after Twitter disrespected Indian laws by refusing to follow orders passed by an elected government asking them to ban anti-India and pro-Khalistani accounts that incited violence on the platform.
Ironically, Twitter’s decision not to impose similar bans on accounts that peddled hate speech and incited violence using fake news in India had come after it had permanently banned former POTUS Donald Trump for his alleged incitement of violence in the United States. Perhaps, Twitter interprets its own rules based on its ideological convenience.