The Hand Gesture For ‘OK’ Is Now Officially A Hate Symbol

by : Emily Brown on : 26 Sep 2019 14:34
The Hand Gesture For 'OK' Is Now Officially A Hate SymbolPA/Pixabay

The ‘OK’ sign used to do what it says on the tin by signifying everything is okay, but apparently it’s taken on a darker meaning in recent years as it’s now officially recognised as a hate symbol. 

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) declared the official change in meaning today (September 26) by adding the symbol to its long-standing ‘Hate on Display’ database of slogans and symbols used by extremists.


The gesture is created by forming a circle with your thumb and forefinger, while raising the remaining three fingers upwards.

diver ok symbolMax Pixel

While many people will likely still recognise the sign as something positive, the ADL say it has been co-opted by the alt-right after a hoax post on 4chan claimed it was linked to white supremacy.

The post was reportedly intended to trick people into thinking the fingers formed the letters ‘W’ and ‘P’ to mean ‘white power’. In turn, it hoped to encourage the media or people with liberal ideals to overreact and therefore look ridiculous for condemning the typically inoffensive sign.


Though it started off as a hoax, the sign was adopted by some white nationalists this year.

Ok symbol is now a hate signAnti-Defamation League

In a report about the symbol, the ADL explain:

At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy.


The organisation has pointed to Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant as an example of someone who uses the symbol. Tarrant is accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques earlier this year, and in a courtroom appearance after his arrest he was pictured using the OK symbol.

OK sign is now a hate symbolPixabay

CNN report Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of ADL, explained the necessity of acknowledging the negative meanings behind certain symbols.

He commented:


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.

We believe law enforcement and the public needs to be fully informed about the meaning of these images, which can serve as a first warning sign to the presence of haters in a community or school.

Donald Trump using the OK symbolEmily Brown

Other symbols in the ADL’s database include burning crosses, Ku Klux Klan robes and the swastika.

The OK symbol’s change in status may pose a problem for some people who use it, for example scuba divers, and many social media users have argued the classification is unnecessary.


However, Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said context is key to interpreting whether the symbol is hateful or harmless.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Hate Crime, Racism, white supremacy


Anti-Defamation League and 1 other
  1. Anti-Defamation League

    Okay Hand Gesture

  2. CNN

    'OK' is now a hate symbol, the ADL says