As a digital asset launched just one month ago, the Pepe (PEPE) memecoin has gained incredible influence.
First, major crypto exchanges listed an anonymous coin in its third week. Then another crypto behemoth humbly fell on its knees, apologizing for sharing publicly available facts that annoyed the memecoin’s community.
Is it possible that PEPE is more than an innocent memecoin that stormed into the crypto space?
Memecoin with MAGA Vibes
Based on the hugely popular Pepe the Frog character, the PEPE memecoin surpassed $1.6 billion market capitalization and broke into the top 60 biggest cryptos in less than a month since its launch in mid-April.
Issued with over 420 trillion token supply, PEPE openly declared itself a coin with no intrinsic value that was “completely useless.” It also did not hide its purpose, highlighting that it came to “take his reign as king of memes” and is here to “make memes great again.”
The official website pictures Pepe wearing a red hat, identical to Donald Trump’s MAGA hat—a globally recognized symbol of his presidential campaign.
This marked enormous growth for the brand new memecoin, which has fallen significantly since then.
Simultaneously, PEPE has grown a solid base of supporters. It has 269.4K Twitter followers, nearly 95K subscribers on Telegram, and over 112K on-chain holders at the time of publishing.
PEPE also found a supporter in Twitter’s owner after Elon Musk tweeted a heavily armed Pepe expressing support for the second amendment.
Notorious for his influence on memecoin prices through his social media postings, Elon Musk chose political vocabulary to fuel the PEPE frenzy. His tweet, “Explaining Constitutional Amendments,” immediately drove PEPE’s price up by 32%.
Appears on Exchanges Quickly
Two of the world’s biggest platforms, Binance and KuCoin, listed PEPE on the 21st day of its existence; although its team is anonymous, the memecoin has no white paper, no utility, and a supply of 420,690 trillion.
This was almost the speed of light compared to two years of waiting for Dogecoin (DOGE) and nearly nine months of waiting for Shiba Inu (SHIB).
Binance: PEPE Listed Because of Community
Why were crypto exchanges, famous for their strict listing policies, so quick to give the green light to PEPE?
Both Binance and KuCoin named high user interest when DailyCoin asked about their listing criteria.
“The main driver behind PEPE’s listing was its community and the number of users requesting it,” a Binance spokesperson confirmed DailyCoin.
The exchange says it runs a “rigorous due diligence and review process” on new applicants and evaluates multiple factors before approving the new token listing.
The commitment of the project’s team, development quality and activity, trading volume, network stability, and level of public communication as some of the critical factors they pay attention to.
Earlier this year, Binance founder CZ confirmed that community is the “number one thing” Binance looks for in candidates.
“If the number of users for a project or a coin is high, there is utility value and usually very good liquidity. If they don't have a large number of users, then we need to look at other things very carefully, like the product or team.”
KuCoin Observed a Substantial Interest
The fourth biggest crypto exchange, KuCoin, also listes PEPE in response to a notable surge in community interest.
“In the case of PEPE coin, we have observed a substantial interest from the community and conducted an in-depth due diligence on its decentralization nature, which prompted us to list the token,” Medha B Dey Roy, a Global Communications Advisor at KuCoin, told DailyCoin.
According to her, KuCoin’s due diligence experts generally examine the candidate’s team background, protocol technology and security, market potential, community engagement, legal compliance, and risk control levels. The exchange does not have “fixed standards” for prioritizing one of the criteria above others.
Listings Bring Benefits to Exchanges too
Being listed on crypto exchanges creates new opportunities for cryptocurrency projects. However, these projects are not the only ones who benefit from the listing, says Markus Thielen, an author of “Crypto Titans.”
“Being listed on major exchanges often comes with more marketing and visible exposure. There is an assumption that this will also drive up volume as then more people could buy it.
In extreme cases, like PEPE, when volume and or market capitalization is large, it could be an important revenue stream for the exchange to list a meme coin,” Thielen stated in his message to DailyCoin.
Coinbase: “We Screwed Up, Sorry”
But while two of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges were surprisingly quick to approve PEPE, Coinbase acted even more oddly.
At first, the US crypto exchange ignored the PEPE community’s pressure to list the memecoin.
Then it openly mentioned the alt-right associations to which the Pepe character had been publicly tied. This immediately caused outrage and boycott threats from PEPE supporters.
Hashtag #deletecoinbase went wild on Twitter, resulting in a groveling apology from Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal two days later:
This marks an unprecedented move from the US’s biggest centralized crypto exchange, which typically defends its position. It sued the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) just weeks ago for lack of regulatory guidance in its ongoing battle of listing unregistered securities.
However, the apology has not calmed down the PEPE community. Instead, its most active members started to demand Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s personal apology and the listing of PEPE on Coinbase.
Pepe the Frog’s Broader Context: The Alt-Right and Donald Trump
The harsh reaction to Coinbase’s newsletter raises suspicions that PEPE supporters are trying to eliminate the cartoon frog’s associations with alt-right extremist movements. However, this does not change the past.
Pepe the Frog, created by artist Matt Furie in 2005, became one of the most versatile internet memes around 2015. The internet communities used the green frog character to express a range of emotions, as did radical movements and former US President Donald Trump.
Alt-right groups exploited Pepe to illustrate their anti-Semitic, racist, or homophobic messages on 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, Tumblr, and other social media forums. However, politically charged and extremist memes quickly spread across more mainstream social media channels like Facebook and Twitter after Donal Trump joined the party by tweeting an image of himself as Pepe the Frog and tagging some far-right accounts during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Many later interpreted his actions as silent support of the radicals’ stance, encouraging enthusiasm among Trump supporters with similar views. This led to more Pepe memes and discussions about it becoming a symbol for Trump’s politics.
The general public, who learned about Pepe the Frog from Donald Trump, mostly associated the meme with far-right movements and radical political messages.
Anti-Defamation League, an international non-governmental organization specializing in civil rights law, added Pepe the Frog to its database of hate symbols in 2016.
Memecoins: New Field for Political Battles?
One does not have to be an American to know the former President’s talent for trolling and memes. Numerous media have analyzed his role in turning memes into a political tool for gaining power and mobilizing supporters when needed.
With the 2024 US presidential election around the corner, PEPE’s portent for openly referencing Donald Trump’s MAGA symbols rings a bell and raises some questions.
Covered with statements of being for love (#PepeIsLove), the PEPE community has shown that it can pursue its goals fiercely and, possibly, in a coordinated manner.
The crypto space has not yet been openly leveraged for political purposes, but there can always be the first time.
What if it becomes a new platform for political battles?
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