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Common ‘OK’ hand gesture deemed hate symbol by Anti-Defamation League

2019-09-26

It’s not OK after all.

A common hand gesture (and emoji) many use to signify that something is “OK” was deemed a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League Thursday.

In order to display the gesture, one touches the tip of their pointer finger to their thumb, as if to make a circle while sticking the remaining fingers out straight.

According to the ADL’s Hate Symbol Database, the circle is meant to be a "p" and the three stick straight fingers, a "w" for “White Power."

The database notes that the “OK” or “Okay Hand Gesture” was co-opted by the alt-right after “a 4chan trolling campaign claimed in 2017 [it] had been appropriated as a symbol meaning ‘white power.’”

Though not mentioned by the ADL, the gesture is also found in many emoji selections, including on Apple’s iMessage and Slack, an instant messaging service widely used by businesses.

The gesture was then utilized by members of the right, even non-extremists, the ADL says, namely for “trolling liberals," before it was also used by genuine white supremacists — including the man accused of massacring 50 people this year at Christchurch, New Zealand.

“Caution must be used in evaluating instances of this symbol’s use,” the organization advises.

Founded in 1913, the ADL’s mission statement strives “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all...”

“Context is key when it pertains to almost all of these symbols,” an ADL spokesman told the Daily News about symbols found in the database. “There is no reason to have a symbol removed as an emoji, for example, when it can be used in totally non-offensive contexts.”

Given the “OK” gesture’s “traditional meaning" and “other usages unrelated to white supremacy,” he continued, people shouldn’t assume “the intent behind someone who has used the gesture.”