The Oban Blog

LGBT emojis dividing emotions internationally

The recent addition of LGBT emojis was met with mixed reactions internationally, with some countries embracing the icons, while other regions actually banned their use entirely. Here we explore how various countries reacted to their launch, and how it highlights the way that different cultures will react to the very same media in completely different ways.


Americans most active users of LGBT emojis

Figures reveal that users in the USA use the LGBT emojis 30% more, on average, than people from other countries. This was followed in second place by Canada and thirdly Malaysia. It was reported by American LGBT news and politics site The Advocate 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.”

0.13% of all emojis sent last year within the United States were of a rainbow, women holding hands or men holding hands which shows how popular the icons have become. This was undoubtedly in part accelerated by conversations surrounding the introduction of same-sex marriage in the USA in 2015.

Apple investigated by Russian police for ‘gay propaganda’

In Russia, controversial anti-homosexuality laws meant that Apple was actually investigated over the inclusion of LGBT emojis on iOs8, according to Local Russian media. The police were reportedly investigating Apple because the emojis contravene government regulations under the so-called “gay propaganda law”. These restrictions are supposedly in place to prevent “promotion” of homosexuality to minors. As the emojis are accused of showcasing “non-traditional family types” to children, they fall foul of the restrictions.

Russia’s consumer rights body was urged by Russian politician Vitaly Milonov to remove the emojis in a statement to local news. He argued that as it stands the service should be labelled as suitable only for persons over the age of 18+ due to the emojis and that a Russia-specific version of the service should be created that omits them.



                                                                                                                              Vitaly Milonov

LGBT emojis removed by Indonesian messaging app Line

The widely-used messaging app in Indonesia, Line, came under pressure to drop LGBT stickers from their system after government authorities requested that they block subscribers from using them. Ismail Cawidu, Ministry of Communication spokesperson, released a statement in relation to the decision outlining the belief that local social media should respect what he deemed as Indonesia’s ‘norms and culture’.

Emoji_4                                                                                                                                                          Line’s LGBT stickers

Line subsequently provided a statement apologising for the stickers following their removal from the app store. Within this statement they described how the emojis were “considered sensitive” and had made certain users feel “uncomfortable”. The icons in question were supposedly removed in line with a global benchmark for screening content that is sensitive from the perspective of local cultures.

The Indonesian government is now attempting to get Facebook and WhatsApp to also remove their LGBT themed emojis within Indonesia, but have so far been unsuccessful.

Freedom of speech vs cultural sensitivity

The wide spectrum of reactions and emotions towards the release of LGBT themed icons has ignited interesting discussions around striking the balance between cultural sensitivity and freedom of speech. While reactions may differ on how best to weigh up local cultural practices and laws with inclusion and non-discrimination, undeniably attitudes to these emojis showcases just how distinctly users and governing bodies from different cultures can react to the very same media.


This article was originally posted on Econsultancy .