{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

They say the language of love is universal, and nothing showcases this better from a technological perspective than a good romantic emoji.

Transcending dialects, regions, devices and platforms these little icons of emotion have been embraced the world over.

More recently, the digital images have also come to represent a more inclusive view of love, with emojis now featuring same-sex couples and families alongside the existing love-related icons.

While many were thrilled that emojis now showcase a more representative vision of romantic love, others have protested against them and in some countries including Russia and Indonesia the backlash has been so severe that the respective governments have even threatened to ban their use in-country.

Here we run through some of the most interesting reactions, statements and statistics around the launch of LGBT emojis internationally.

lgbt emoji

Americans use LGBT emojis the most

The USA has embraced LGBT emojis with open arms and the figures show that people in the USA are using them 30% more, on average, than users from other countries (followed in second place by Canada and thirdly Malaysia).

The introduction of same-sex marriage in the USA last summer has no doubt contributed to a spike in usage, but the stat shows regardless that users have favourably adopted the new designs.

American LGBT news and politics site The Advocate reported positively when Apple first introduced the new emoji range that: 

“The latest Apple operating system update includes a new set of diverse, LGBT emoji for users to send via iMessage to friends, family, and loved ones…Social media was abuzz with positive responses to the new emoji, especially on Twitter.”

An example of mixed reaction to LGBT emojis in the U.S.

emoji reaction US

Russian police investigate Apple for ‘gay propaganda’

Local Russian media reported that Russian police were investigating Apple over the inclusion of gay emojis into the operating system as they fall foul of Russia’s controversial anti-homosexuality laws.

The so called “gay propaganda law” is supposed to prevent “promotion” of homosexuality to minors. The emojis were therefore classified as in breach of this law for showcasing “non-traditional family types” to children.

Russian politician Vitaly Milonov urged Russia’s consumer rights body to ban Apple’s iOS8 in a statement to local news. He pushed for a Russia-specific version of the service to be released which removed the emojis in question or alternatively labelled them as suitable only for persons over the age of 18+.

Vitaly Milonov

vitaly milonov

Indonesian messaging app Line forced to drop LGBT emojis

Line, the most popular messaging app in Indonesia, was pressured to remove gay-themed emoji stickers from its systems after government authorities requested that they block subscribers from using them. Ministry of communication spokesperson, Ismail Cawidu, stated that the drive stemmed from the fact that local social media should respect what he described as Indonesia’s norms and culture.

Although homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, the country does have the largest Muslim population in the world and a strictly conservative attitude towards LGBT themes prevails in the media and popular culture. 

Having removed the emojis in question from their app store, Line issued a statement apologising for the stickers. In the post, they said that they understand the images are “considered sensitive” and left some users feeling “uncomfortable”. They explained that the images were removed in line with a "global benchmark for screening content that is sensitive from the perspective of local culture”.

While Line has removed the stickers from its store, it is not clear whether the government will be successful in convincing Facebook and WhatsApp to remove their comparable LGBT themes emojis within Indonesia also, although authorities are putting pressure on them to do so.

Line's LGBT stickers

line stickers

Cultural sensitivity and freedom of speech

Emojis may be fun, frivolous and flirty, but the reaction to the launch of these LGBT themed icons has ignited deeper discussions around the topics of cultural sensitivity and freedom of speech.

While attitudes may differ around how best to balance consideration for local cultural practices and laws with inclusion and non-discrimination, undoubtedly the emojis showcase just how distinctly users and governing bodies from different cultures can react to the very same media.

For more on messaging, read Private messaging is social's next big ad frontier.

Chloe McKenna

Published 17 March, 2016 by Chloe McKenna

Chloe McKenna is International Digital Strategist at Oban Digital and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

6 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

I think that the Indonesian Ministry spokesperson, Ismail Cawidu has a dirty mind. It is very natural in many Asian countries for boys and young men even to hold hands as friends, far more so that in the west. What is he afraid of, does he honestly think an emoji will turn straight kids gay? And as for the Russian....

7 months ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.