Apple’s substitution of a squirt gun for the handgun emoji has the potential to cause serious communication problems for iOS and macOS users. Should it just hide the handgun emoji?
Eye on Apple
By Jim Lynch, CIO
Apple’s recent decision to substitute a squirt gun for the handgun emoji has caused an explosion of criticism. Many folks seem to think that Apple has jumped the shark in terms of being politically correct.
But a recent post at Emojipedia.org points out that there is a real danger that comes from Apple’s decision. What looks like a squirt gun in iOS and macOS, appears as a real handgun emoji on other platforms such as Windows, Android or Linux.
This has the potential to cause misunderstandings that could result in somebody thinking that they are actually being threatened by another person. And that could have disastrous consequences if action is taken based on such a misunderstanding.
The solution being proposed by the writer at emojipedia.org is for Apple to simply hide the handgun emoji altogether:
Apple: Don’t change the pistol emoji. Hide it.
Hiding the gun emoji is a win-win situation which ticks many boxes for all of those with varied interests:
For Apple: Regular users don’t see the pistol on the iOS emoji keyboard any more.
For Backward Compatibility: Old messages with this emoji still show it.
For Cross-Platform Compatibility: If someone sends you a gun emoji, you still see what they intended.
For Gun Fans: If you really want this emoji, you can copy and paste it – the same way you would enter the ♗ Bishop Unicode character, or any other character not shown on the default iOS keyboard.
While I agree with much of the commentary in the article on Emojipedia, I disagree that hiding the handgun emoji is a good idea. Sure, Apple can do it, but the company’s reputation is already suffering from the perception that it has become heavy-handed in pushing its politics on its customers. Hiding the handgun emoji is just going to increase that perception.
And it also raises the question of how much further Apple is going to take its emoji censorship. As I noted in one of my earlier articles, there are other emojis such as a dagger, knife, hammer, bomb, coffin, pill, cigarette, etc. that are potentially offensive to the folks running Apple.
How long until some of those emojis are removed from the iOS and macOS keyboards? Exactly where is the line going to be drawn at Apple when it comes to censoring emojis?
So far there are no answers to these questions, but hiding the handgun emoji would certainly give us a clear idea of where Apple is going to go in the future. If the handgun emoji is hidden, we’ll see others hidden eventually as well.
As Apple hides more and more “offensive” emojis, the company will become known for limiting self-expression by users of its products. This will have a chilling effect on the company’s reputation and will most likely result in some users abandoning Apple’s platforms altogether.
Tim Cook’s Apple is going down a very bad road
I said in one of my earlier posts about the handgun emoji that the whole affair made me really miss Steve Jobs. Jobs made it a point to steer Apple clear of being involved in these kinds of political issues, and he was quite right to do so.
But this is Tim Cook’s Apple now, and it’s a very different company when it comes to politics. This version of Apple has not shied away from pushing its politics on its users, and that has tarnished the company’s brand among some of its customers.
The folks running Apple really need to pause for a moment and ask themselves what they will do if part of the company’s customer base eventually dumps its products entirely due to Apple’s political posturing in its software.
Apple is courting disaster by becoming so political, and it if continues it will eventually affect sales of the company’s products in a very significant way. Who wants to buy a phone, tablet or computer from a company that overtly censors free expression in its software?
Apple should simply provide a full selection of emojis on its iOS and macOS keyboards, and it should make sure that the images used for those emojis accurately represent what they are supposed to be.
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