Pepe wasn’t always an alt-right frog, and recently, his creator has scored some victories in his fight to reclaim his cartoon from the white supremacists, far-right groups, and trolls who have made the amphibian their mascot. Cartoonist Matt Furie, who in a lawsuit describes his character as a “peaceful frog dude,” has been going after sites that have appropriated the cartoon. Most recently, nearly all Pepe images were removed from neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer in response to copyright claims.
Motherboard reports that Pepe had previously appeared in more than 40 articles on the Daily Stormer, which has resided on the dark web ever since Google and GoDaddy refused to host it. The takedown occurred after the law firm WilmerHale served Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices to the company hosting the site. Now, Motherboard reports, only four articles on the site feature the frog.
Pepe first appeared as a feel-good stoner in a 2005 comic series by Furie. The Anti-Defamation League listed the frog as a hate symbol in 2016.
“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate,” Furie wrote in a 2016 op-ed for Time. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
Pepe has also been used by an alt-right children’s book, by white nationalist Richard Spencer to promote podcasts, and by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to sell posters. Furie has taken legal action ranging from takedown notices to lawsuits. After trying (and failing) to kill off his cartoon, he partnered with the ADL on a campaign to “Save Pepe,” including a Kickstarter page that has raised $34,757 for zines and merchandise resurrecting the chill frog.
But Pepe’s PR battle continues—you could buy hateful Pepe merchandise on Amazon as recently as June, according to a report from the nonprofits Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy.