Apple and other technology companies have blocked the roll out of a rifle emoji for the Olympics. The decision has drawn some criticism from media outlets and users.
Eye on Apple
By Jim Lynch, CIO
Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have worked together to block a rifle emoji from becoming available on smartphones. Apple led the fight and now smartphones will not get the rifle emoji that had been part of a new set of icons related to winter sports and the Olympics.
Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have joined forces to stop a rifle emoji from being added to the catalogue of images available to their users on their smartphones.
The new emoji was due to join the keyboard line-up in an update this month. But members of the Unicode Consortium, which is responsible for regulating emoji, voted unanimously to remove it in a move the body described as “bizarre and unusual”
Apple led the decision, according to BuzzFeed, and was supported by all 12 technology giants that are voting members of Unicode, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The pistol emoji will still be available, but Apple said it wouldn’t add the rifle to its services.
…the rifle emoji was proposed to “represent shooting as a sport”, including hunting and marksmanship, according to a submission to Unicode, which is how new icons are added.
And a writer at BuzzFeed noted the powerful influence of companies like Apple in the process of adopting new emoji.
Charlie Warzel reports for BuzzFeed:
Apple is one of Unicode’s largest member companies and not only has voting rights, but also holds considerable influence. Millions of people use emojis on Apple’s software platforms (earlier this year, the company announced it delivers as many as 200,000 messages per second across iMessage).
According to sources in the room, Apple started the discussion to remove the rifle emoji, which had already passed into the encoding process for the Unicode 9.0 release this June. Apple told the consortium it would not support a rifle on its platforms and asked for it not to be made into an emoji. “I heard Apple speak up about it and also Microsoft,” one member present at the discussions told BuzzFeed News.
While Unicode’s rifle debate is a far cry from any actual policy discussion, regulating emojis based on their potential controversy is further evidence of the broad, unexpected influence of tech’s biggest companies. Many inside Unicode disagree that emoji rises to the level of an emerging language, but there’s little debate that it has quickly become a meaningful, global form of expression and communication. And Unicode, which includes Apple, Google, and Microsoft among its voting members, is in the precarious position of governing emoji’s evolution. For those wary of Big Tech’s outsize power, this is another troubling example.
There’s even a recent proposal on the table in the consortium that would require the major emoji vendors, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to support the adoption and “wide deployment” of an emoji in order to make it an approved candidate — a move that would theoretically give more control to Unicode’s most influential members. (There are only 12 full voting members, and they include Oracle, Facebook, Google, Apple, Oracle, IBM, and Yahoo.)
Apple’s role in blocking the rifle emoji sparked some passionate responses in a thread on the MacDaily News site:
The Other Steve: “I’m going to agree with Apple on this one. Anyone using the rifle emoji is not going to be thinking of the Olympic games. Either way, the world is not going to be coming to an end on this issue.”
RIP: “Tim is just taking his SJW stance to make the online world safe from the evil gun, while happily reaping in the profits of Apple computer sales used by Hollywood writers who are busy typing away on their next movie script that glorifies assault weapons that bring about death and carnage by their favorite actor/actress (who then go to lecture us on gun violence) to amuse and desensitize the brain dead masses who are entertained by that pap!
Perhaps Apple needs another company name change from Apple, Inc. to Hypocrisy, Inc.”
Thetheloniousmac: “This is beyond ridiculous. It is the silliest thing that Apple could possibly have done. It might be the silliest thing that Apple has ever done, next to the whole Confederate Flag nonsense.
One thing I know, it is that mass murder is not about the weapons themselves, but about individual killers and individual circumstances. The mental illness that seizes a person consumed with racial hatred, is not the same as the anger and frustration that consumes a bullied high school student, or the viral ideology that radicalizes a religious zealot. And none of it has anything to do with guns, and acting as if removing a goddamn emoji will make any difference is just feckless.
Its like mutant political correctness. It’s hard enough defending Tim Cook as it is. This makes him look like he’s sitting in his office and making balloon animals all day (except for any that look like guns of course.)
You know, an attack similar to the one in Orlando was carried out against a gay club in New Orleans in 1973. It had a death toll of 33. Interestingly, not one bullet was fired. The killer used lighter fluid.
One thing is for certain. Hate finds a way, and blaming guns is opportunistic and worse than shameful.
The anti-gun lobby is not concerned with safety. That much is certain. It is left vs. right politics as usual. It’s ignore the facts, as usual. It’s lets be as irrational as possible, as usual.
I read the other day that the American Medical Association has declared gun violence to be a public health crisis. I just had to chuckle at this. Gun related homicides average around 11,000 per year. People dying from doctor errors and hospital errors are in the hundreds of thousands. I think they have their priorities bass-ackwards.”
JWSC: “Agree hole heartedly with TM. Apple has jumped the shark on this one.”
Kaplanmike: “Just want to point out that Apple is only one voting member in the emoji consortium. They didn’t do this on their own, even if they did bring up the issue. Maybe they all felt that ADDING a rifle symbol at this time wasn’t the best PR move for anyone.
As several others have pointed out, there are still gun images available, and even as a staunch gun-control advocate, I see nothing wrong with guns and gun-related imagery on emojis (or anywhere else for that matter).
I’m also against drunk driving, but I have no problem with booze emojis or car emojis — or even emojis of drunk drivers. Sometimes you’ve just gotta look at the bigger picture. Can you imagine the press conference at emoji central? “So, why did you feel the need to add a rifle emoji at this time…?””
Thetheloniousmac: “To be fair, while Tim is the visible target, I suspect he is oblivious to this whole emoji thing.
In thinking about it calmly, I just cannot imagine that a guy who’s throwing around billions trying to save his business in China is sitting around approving emojis.
It was probably some Apple twit.”
Theyarealreadyamoungus: “Better get rid of the bomb and knife emojis too.”
JWSC: “And get rid of the angry face emojis too. Someone might be offended and it might lead to violence. And the texting world won’t b a safe space anymore against micro-aggressions. ”
News about the rifle emoji also spawned a large and passionate thread on the 9to5Mac site:
Bruce Allen: “Everything becomes political these days. Even emojis…”
TS: “Oh yes, because the removal of a tiny emoji of a rifle will surely be impactful in the dialogue on gun control and mass shootings. By that logic how about remove the knife while we’re at it in honor of MP Jo Cox.”
Wayne Williams: “I hate political activist CEOs. Tim Cook needs to stick with tech.”
AppleBXL: “Good!!! I bet many American die hard gun lovers are furious at this. And their gun laws are just ridiculous, so well done Apple!”
STCopper: “They should remove an emojis that reference cars. Far more people die (32000 +) in vehicle related accidents every year than do from guns, especially rifles.”
Tony Turner: “An emoji changes nothing. What if I wanted to say lets go duck hunting with a duck and rifle emoji.”
Andrew: “Might as well get rid of the needle, bomb, swords, knife and cigarette too. It will only be a matter of time before someone argues to get those removed too.”
Husky: “Kudos to Apple. The right decision to take.”
Duke Woodson: “I miss Steve Jobs.”
Jamessmooth: “Probably the worst thing I’ve seen Apple do since they didn’t show dark mode on Monday…”