These pictures say a thousand controversial words.
When Apple released a new emoji keyboard last year, most people seemed appreciative of the tech giant's effort to be ethnically inclusive. Different family combinations, flags from various nations and a range of skin tones became widely available in an effort to mirror a more realistic depiction of society. However, not everyone found the new emoticons socially progressive. Last week human rights groups condemned a move by the Indonesian government to remove same-sex emojis and stickers from all social media and messaging platforms. This is not the first time emojis have been used as a political weapon. So which emoticons have received a thumbs down and why?
1. Same-sex symbols
Turns out, it wasn't just Indonesia that met the same-sex emojis with a frowny face. In Russia, a formal investigation was carried out after a complaint was made by right-wing senator Mikhail Marchenko. Apparently, emojis depicting families with same-sex parents and expressions of same-sex love fall under a controversial law that prohibits the promotion of non-heterosexual relationships. In an appeal to the media watchdog Roskomnadzor, Senator Marchenko wrote " these emojis of non-traditional sexual orientation are seen by all users of the social network, a large portion of whom are minors". Russia continues to face international criticism for its anti-gay laws. Individuals can be fined up to 4,000 to 5,000 roubles if found promoting non-heterosexual relations.
2. Forbidden fruits
Last year Instagram blocked searches for an eggplant emoji due to the rise of users using it to depict various parts of the human anatomy. Instagram first caught on when #eggplant and #eggplantfriday went viral, flooding the picture-based platform with NSFW photos. Instagram claimed it was a breach of their guidelines, which prohibits nudity and "some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.” However, many were outraged that the equally suggestive banana, peach and even the taco emoji remain unaffected in the Instagram blockade.
3. Not-so-mellow yellow
Apple's default 'yellow' emoji has also come under fire after some Apple users, particularly those in China, found that the bright yellow tone is offensive to Asian people. Whilst Apple insists that the colour was intended to be ethnically neutral, many drew connections between the yellow face and Asia's long history of racial stereotypes.
4. Into the firing line
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence launched a Twitter initiative in attempt to persuade Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, to remove the gun emoji on claims that an icon alone can promote violence. The hashtag #DisarmTheiPhone was soon circulated after the appeal and was met by the Twitter community with a lukewarm response. Whilst they did succeed in raising awareness around gun violence (approximately 33,000 people die each year from a gun related death), the analytics service Topsy found that the majority of tweets came from the right side of the political spectrum and were utilised as a means of counteroffensive.