The Brief: The OK hand gesture and emoji generally represent that things are "ok." It is also used in "the circle game" and has faced an attempted rebranding by the Alt-Right.
In most English speaking countries, when someone holds up a hand with their index finder connected to their thumb or sends the matching emoji, they are communicating that things are “ok.” The symbol can be used interchangeably with a thumbs up, meaning that a person is alright and doing well.
The Circle Game
A game usually played among adolescents consists of making a variation of the “ok” symbol and attempting to sneak up on their friends with it. The specific rules of the game entail that if someone successfully tricks their friend into looking at them while they make the symbol below the waist that they then can punch their friend on the arm as a reward.
Circle Game Memes
The circle game has been digitized into an online meme. By subtly including the “ok” or circle symbol into images, people can play an online version of the circle game, tricking others into looking at the 👌sign. Although it’s impossible to punch someone on the arm through a computer, getting someone to unwittingly look at the ok circle sign can be a fun prank to play nonetheless.
evil posessed clown doll. do you wanna play a (circle) game pic.twitter.com/VyLM2rNiOa
— wolf.bitch.mwah (@nerophilia) February 17, 2019
In 2017, trolls on 4chan banded together to flood other social networking sites with misinformation about this gesture being a “white power symbol.” The idea behind this claim is that when the symbol is held upside down, that the raised fingers made a “W” shape and that the circle and the wrist made a “P” shape, spelling out “WP” for “white power.” The idea behind this trolling campaign was to fool people into becoming alarmed by what is actually just an innocuous gesture.
Although the idea that the OK sign is a white power symbol started as a way to “trigger” liberals, some outspoken white supremacists such as Richard Spencer have publicly held up this symbol. Among members of the Alt-Right, the OK symbol has become a way to both ironically reference this “meme,” and to show more serious support for white supremacy, Donald Trump, and/or the Alt-Right.
In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) added the ok-symbol to its list of hate symbols, explaining the nuances of the symbol, how it is often harmless, but can also be a representation of white supremacy.