ARD, a coalition of Germany’s regional broadcasters, has prompted backlash on social media after releasing a list of “extreme right wing” emojis.
A graphic containing the list was uploaded to the media company’s Instagram on May 31. The post was intended to “educate” viewers on social media literacy, warning them about certain emojis which may have “far-right” implications.
“Which emojis have you ever encountered in a far right-wing context,” the post asks in German. “Extremists like to appear young and modern online – this enables them to reach many people. However, you might be unaware that emojis, hashtags, songs and more are often used support extremist theses.”
Among the “far right” emojis listed was one intended to convey a student raising their hand. The graphic stated could be used to signify a Nazi doing a salute. The red “X” symbol was said to be a replacement for the swastika, while the frog emoji was classified as a representation of Pepe — a popular frog meme some claim is associated with far-right extremism.
The graphic went on to claim that “OK” gesture used together with the glass of milk emoji was intended to indicate the user’s support for “white supremacy,” and that the clown emoji referred to politics that were not far-right.
The graphic was also used to promote a newly-launched podcast on ARD’s Audiothek network titled “Extreme Right — The Hate Merchant And The State,” which premiered its first episode in May.
The podcast is centered around the life and trial of Sven Liebich, a far-right influencer who was recently sentenced to 10 months probation and 250 hours of community service for hate speech.
Less than one hour after ARD posted the graphic, the media company issued a statement in the comments warning users to remain “respectful” as a flood of criticism and mockery immediately rolled in.
“I hope there will be an identical post about the secret social media symbols of far left extremists. Because I don’t want to end up on the wrong pages,” one user wrote in response.
“A social media manager is paid full-time by taxpayer money just to post something so absurd,” another wrote.
The graphic began to circulate on Twitter shortly after, and was met with the same derision.
“Since when has the clown emoji been far-right extremist? Just ban all the words we use to criticize the woke,” columnist Anabel Schunke wrote. “Thank about it. RIGHT WING EXTREMIST. So as if you beat up foreigners and deny the Holocaust.”
Some German social media users also noted the graphic had been made in collaboration with the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to “fighting hate” in Germany. The organization was founded in 1998 by Annette Kahane, a former agent of the East German Stasi secret police. Kahane has lead the organization since 2003.
In 2019, prominent German historian Hubertus Knabe detailed that Kahane reported a number of individuals to the East German state for so-called “political crimes” between 1974 and 1982. Amongst those Kahane is said to have reported are Chilean activists who were protesting against the fascist Pinochet regime, and German actors Klaus and Thomas Brasch.
Klaus Brasch committed suicide in 1980, four years after being deemed an “enemy of the state” by Kahane.