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30th Sep 2019

‘OK’ hand sign added to list of hate symbols

Dave Hanratty

Might be time for a new WhatsApp go-to…

The popular ‘OK’ hand sign has officially been designated as a hate symbol, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

This weekend, the New York-based NGO updated its hate symbols database, adding the finger-and-thumb gesture along with others that are deemed to represent white supremacy.

“The ADL has updated its database to include the ‘OK’ hand symbol, which became fodder for a 4chan trolling campaign to dupe viewers into thinking the fingers formed the letters ‘W’ and ‘P’ to mean ‘white power’,” notes an ADL statement.

The organisation referred to Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man charged with killing 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, noting that Tarrant flashed the ‘OK’ symbol during a courtroom appearance following his arrest.

Elaborating on the symbol’s inclusion, the ADL note that extremists have adopted the OK sign as “a sincere expression of white supremacy”.

The database contains over 200 entries, including the swastika, burning crosses, Ku Klux Klan robes, and various numeric designs.

“Even as extremists continue to use symbols that may be years or decades old, they regularly create new symbols, memes and slogans to express their hateful sentiments,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

The ADL has pointed to message boards such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit as platforms where the latest entries first surfaced in the form of trolling campaigns and hateful memes, later migrating to social media platforms and public forums.

Speaking on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, historian Dr Paul Stocker stated that the OK symbol acts as a method of communication between those who identify as far-right.

“It’s a coded message to people who are in the know and understand what the far-right are doing,” said Stocker.

“That symbol indicates to core supporters that they are one of them.”