Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is facing backlash after an email to customers referred to Pepe, a popular internet memecoin, as a “hate symbol.” The email cited the racial history of the Pepe mascot and claimed the alt-right wing had used it. The exchange, listed on the Nasdaq, has been widely criticized for handling the situation.
Pepe was first created in 2005 by artist Matt Furie as part of his comic series “Boy’s Club.” The character quickly gained popularity online, and the alt-right movement eventually adopted it as a symbol of white nationalism. The frog’s association with hate groups led to its designation as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League in 2016.
Coinbase’s Controversial Email
In the email to its users, Coinbase cited the ADL’s designation of Pepe as a hate symbol and warned users not to use the image on their profiles or in their trades. The company also referenced Pepe’s racial history and its use by hate groups.
“PEPE, which was issued around three weeks ago with a comically huge supply of 420 trillion tokens, has been leading the memecoin activity…Over time it has been co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).”
Many users noted that the memecoin has been used outside hate groups, embraced by mainstream culture. The Email caused outrage on social media, accusing Coinbase of pandering to political correctness and censoring free expression.
Response from Coinbase
Coinbase apologized and acknowledged that Pepe has been used outside of hate groups. The exchange clarified that it doesn’t ban the use of Pepe and intended the email as a warning about certain symbols’ potential impact on the community.
”Confrontation isn’t really the purpose. It’s frankly not even something I particularly enjoy. But I do think that there are moments when it’s important to simply be public about the disagreements we may have from time to time, and also be very clear that the disagreements are…
— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) May 8, 2023