Who is Pepe the Frog and why has he become a hate symbol?

The wider world doesn't care about OPEC or Deutsche Bank right now – they want to know why a global internet meme called Pepe the Frog has been put on a list of hate symbols.

Pepe the Frog is, as the name suggests, an online cartoon frog character that has become hugely popular around the world since its creation by cartoonist Matt Furie in 2005. But it has now fallen fowl of an anti-discrimination watchdog and added to a database of "hate symbols."

The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said on Wednesday that Pepe the Frog was being "used by haters on social media to suggest racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted notions, as a hate symbol" and, as a result, it had taken the decision to add the image to its online database of hate symbols.

An image of Pepe the Frog
Wikimedia Commons

This means that Pepe the Frog has now joined an ignominious rank of symbols including the well-known Swatiska and blood drop cross used by the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan respectively, that the ADL has on its "Hate on Display" database.

The story has captured the attention of the world and was one of the top five trending stories on search engine Google on Thursday morning.

The ADL noted that cartoonist Furie created the frog cartoon and gave him the catchphrase "feels good, man" but that the image and phrase had been appropriated by social media users, "turning him into a meme, placing the frog in a variety of circumstances and saying many different things."

While the ADL noted that the majority of uses of Pepe the Frog "have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted," it had also taken on a more sinister side among some social media communities.

Furie has already defended his cartoon, telling the Atlantic publication in September that his feelings were "pretty neutral"

"I think it's just a reflection of the world at large .. I just think that people reinvent him in all these different ways, it's kind of a blank slate. It's just out of my control, what people are doing with it, and my thoughts on it, are more of amusement," he said.

The ADL added that the use of racist and bigoted versions of Pepe memes seemed to be increasing, but added that it was important to examine use of the meme only in context.

"The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist. However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes," it said.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.