Russia wants to ban ‘gay-emojis’ on social media

At first, I wanted to write a blog post about the use of propaganda in social media. Then I read an article that really got my attention. Russia is considering to ban ‘gay emoji’s’ on social media. Ridiculous right?! This got the attention in the media after a lot of claims were made in Russia that the icons are illegal under tough laws about homosexual propaganda.


Apple first introduces the ‘gay emoji’s’ back in 2012. At the same time they were bringing more symbols with more ethnic diversity and a greater range of ages. Another update this year introduces emoji’s showing gay couples with children (IOS 8.3). Apple is even under investigation by the Russian police because the emoji’s would illegally promote homo sexuality.

According to a Russian lawyer, Yaroslav Mikhailov, Apple breaks the Russian law, which states that organizations are not allowed to promote homosexuality to minors. If found guilty Apple has to face a fine ranging from 800,000 – 1.000.000 rubles (€8.500 – €11.000). They also could be suspended in Russia for up to three months when they found guilty. In my opinion, How is an emoticon able to ‘promote’ homosexuality in a country? Of course, we already knew Russia is not as tolerant towards the gay community compared with other western countries, but still.

This also shows that Russia wants to have influence on social media, which is the biggest open communication source in the world. They want to implement limitations for there own social media users. This is contrary to the fact that social media has to be an open communication source without limitations for the users.

I think it is a great idea to bring more diversity in the emoji’s. A lot of social media users, use them  on the big social media platforms, like: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. By the time of 2011, a lot of social media users were already asking for more diversity in the so called emoji’s. It sounds funny, but in a way is social media and emoji’s supporting equality in the world. It reflects the will of the people for more equality, even in social media emoticons.

How do you feel about social media censoring in this way, keeping in mind that social media is an open communication source? And how should a company like Apple deal with such accusations?


One response to “Russia wants to ban ‘gay-emojis’ on social media”

  1. bweur says :

    Thank you for this very interesting article. I myself have noticed the increased variety in ethnicity-related emojis. At first I though “Why the heck do I need ten differently colored ‘thumbs up’ emojis”. For me it sounds a bit ridiculous to try and serve every possible skin color – especially considering that original emojis were yellow. The good old smiley’s were always drawn with yellow faces, which did not reflect on anyone’s actual skin tone (let’s be honest, if someone had a yellow-colored face like a smiley, I would send him straight to the hospital).

    And in my opinion, that is the great thing about ‘unrealistic’ yellow emojis. By making them more realistic, you are, in the end, discriminating more than you did before. If I wrote a message to a black person, would I choose the white ‘thumbs up’ because I am white, or the black ‘thumbs up’ because he is black (please do not be offended by me using the terms black and white – its just for illustration purposes). In any case, I end up thinking in color tones and therefore discriminating even more.

    However, it is a different story for the gay emojis. It is a very thoughtful idea to include a gay couple (but please just give them yellow faces – after all they are not supposed to actually represent a real person, they are rather representing a certain context in a message).

    So how do i feel about the censorship that Russia wants to force onto Apple or social media providers in general? Of course, as an open-minded person, I find Russia’s claims ridiculous. Especially considering your argument, that social media is an open communication source, it should not be controlled by governments and everyone should have a right to say whatever they want to say and use whatever emoji they want to use. The OPTION of a gay emoji doesn’t force people to actually USE it. One would expect that everyone would be happy.However, we are talking about Russia. And Russian people have always been closely controlled by the government. It is sad, but not necessarily Apple’s place to change. Apple was basically provoking this conflict when they pushed their ‘Amerincan-tailored’ products into the Russian market.

    Emojis can never satisfy everyone’s expectations. China for example got offended when Apple introduced a Taiwanese flag into its emojis (since they like to consider Taiwan as a part of Greater China). So Apple can’t make it right for everyone and should therefore stick to their own values. However, they should consider adapting their products in certain markets in order to not be pushed out of the market by institutional voids, as it is the case in Russia.

    While one possible solution would be the adaptation of products to Russian governmental regulations another one would be for Apple to see the greater good and to keep this buzz going it is generating at the moment in Russia. This could lead to an attitude change from people within the country. Apple might not be in a position to go against Russian laws or even actively change them, but they can definitely influence people’s acceptance.

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