You've probably seen "Trash Dove" on your Facebook feed. It's a cheeky and playful purple pigeon sticker pack that has completely dominated social media in the last few weeks.
In Thailand, Trash Dove took off just a few days after the sticker pack was issued by Facebook. On Feb. 7, Facebook page Animals With Paws uploaded a short animated video of a cartoon cat dancing.
Trash Dove has infected Facebook like a virus as people use the lovable bird to clog up the feeds of prominent Facebook pages. Check out the comment section on this New York Times article.
There's even a competition — run by a prominent Trash Dove Memes page — offering prizes to anyone who can show they've posted so many Trash Doves that they've been blocked from posting stickers.
Trash Dove made its way to Tumblr, where it was pounced on by the bird-loving community, who proceeded to make dozens of memes. There's, uh, even porn of it, too, if you're curious.
"I woke up Thursday morning and saw I was being tagged in a lot of videos and news articles on Facebook — most originated in Thailand," Trash Dove creator and Adobe creative resident Syd Weiler told BuzzFeed News.
"The first thing I saw was people in a country on the other side of the world dancing like my drawings," Weiler said, "and my picture on news sites in a foreign language."
Basically, Trash Dove is everywhere right now. But in the last few days, something very strange has happened to this adorable — albeit insanely annoying — little Facebook sticker.
Over the weekend, this post appeared on Medium. Its author, Quincy Frey, claims Trash Dove is ACTUALLY a right-wing symbol that fascists and neo-Nazis are using to signal each other.
The rumors that Trash Dove is a racist symbol are actually part of a 4chan campaign called "Operation Nazi Bird". It started on the /pol/ messageboard, which has become the epicenter of far-right extremist activity on the internet since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
Users created a lengthy walkthrough of what they want to do with Trash Dove. Step one is spamming media pages with it.
Trolls are instructed to post the bird on pages like CNN or the New York Times so journalists and activists notice it.
Then users are supposed to start photoshopping Trash Dove into swastikas and fascist iconography and spreading those images as a second wave.
It does appear that the radicalization of the bird is at least partly a ploy to get Facebook to ban the annoying meme and free social media from Trash Dove's reign of terror.
Making things even more confusing, though, is that spreading hoaxes about Trash Dove being a Nazi symbol has actually made at least some people start posting the bird earnestly as a Nazi symbol.
And Operation Nazi Bird appears to be working really well.
Because now no one is really sure how earnest anyone is being about how fascist a symbol Trash Dove is.
And it should be noted that, even if Operation Nazi Bird was a satirical campaign...
...it still means people are posting swastikas all over social media.
So, saying Trash Dove is a Nazi symbol isn't exactly untrue, because at the end of the day, Facebook pages are filling up with swastikas because of it.
To sum everything up, Trash Dove was a popular Facebook sticker, it went viral in Thailand, then it got really annoying and spammy, then far-right trolls on 4chan decided to try to trick people into thinking it was being used by neo-Nazis, but their plan was basically to photoshop Trash Dove into racist images, so in a sense it basically is now being used by racists.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Brad Esposito at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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