Neither developer Infinity Ward or publisher Activision have confirmed the reason for the gesture’s removal, but the ostensibly innocuous hand signal has a well-documented history of usage by racist right-wing extremists.
The gesture – or “emote” – was a popular way for players to celebrate the end of a successful match on the hit multiplayer shooter, but has now been replaced with an emote called “crush”.
The use of the "OK" gesture as a hate symbol dates back to 2017 when it was popularised on social media site 4chan. The so-called ”alt-right” are often photographed performing the gesture.
Described by the US Anti-Defamation League as “a sincere expression of white supremacy”, the OK symbol is nonetheless used innocently by millions around the globe. The ADL add that “care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture”.
Infinity Ward has recently made moves to combat racism on Call of Duty.
On 6 June, they announced on Twitter: “There is no place for racist content in our game. This is an effort we began with launch and we need to do a better job. We’re issuing thousands of daily bans of racist and hate-oriented names. But we know we have to do more.”
In addition to this, the company said they would be adding additional resources to monitor and identify racist content, adding additional in-game reporting systems to increase the number of hourly bans, and adding filters and improved restrictions on name changes.
They have also started evaluating in-game improvements to make it easier to report offences, and are increasing permanent bans to “root out” repeat offenders.