Cartoonist Matt Furie has racked up a significant win in his quest to take back one of his cartoon creations, Pepe the Frog, after the character became the defacto symbol for white supremacism during and after the 2016 American presidential elections. Furie has forced one of the most prominent neo-Nazi websites, The Daily Stormer, a publication that peddles in fictional, rightwing takes on the news, to remove all instances of Pepe the Frog from its site, a feat that is not as simple as it sounds.
Furie has been working with the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP for the past year, delivering DMCA notices to sites using the character’s likeness without the artist’s permission. The most recent recipient of such a notice was The Daily Stormer. According to Motherboard, the alt-right news site featured over 40 articles containing instances of Pepe. The real problem was finding where The Daily Stormer was hosted.
The site was dropped by its website and email hosting services -- GoDaddy and Zoho, respectively -- in August of last year after it published an article mocking Heather Heyer, a woman killed during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The service The Daily Stormer used to protect itself from DDoS attacks, Cloudflare, dropped the publication as a client shortly after. Since then, the rightwing publication has moved to the dark web, where it has burned through numerous hosting services and suffered sporadic DDoS attacks.
Furie has been intensely critical of neo-Nazi groups’ use of the cartoon character from the start. Pepe the Frog first appeared in Furie’s comic Boy’s Club in 2005. Furie originally envisioned Pepe as weed-loving, laidback frog with few cares in the world. The character became an online meme shortly after its debut, often associated with finding joy in strange or minute things. Pepe memes often included what would become the character’s catchphrase -- “Feels good, man.” All of that changed during the election, when the cartoon frog was coopted by the country’s emerging neo-Nazi faction and spread globally from there.
Furie has opted for numerous approaches to take back Pepe. Aside from being vocal about his disdain for the character’s recent cultural impact, the artist has blocked the sales of an alt-right children’s book starring the character, sued InfoWars and even killed off the character. In June of last year, Furie launched a Kickstarter to create a zine that would ideally save the little green frog’s flagging image.