Indonesia has imposed a ban on “gay” emojis in instant messaging apps. The Muslim majority country claims the same-sex emoticons may cause “public unrest.”
With an intention to cleanse instant messaging apps of emojis that imply relation between two same-sex people, the Indonesian government has begun imposing a strict ban on same-sex emoticons, stickers and emoji from messaging apps. The common messaging apps, including Line, WhatsApp, and such are used by 250 million people.
Fearing a permanent ban, Line, a Japanese-Korean messaging app, complied with Indonesian law and claims it has removed same-sex and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) themed stickers from its Indonesian-language store. However, other popular instant messaging apps, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Tinder could face a ban if they don’t comply soon. Indonesia has a special Negative Content Management Panel, which will soon adjudge if the instant messaging platforms had removed all the seemingly gay-themed emojis. If found violating the ban, the panel could effectively block the apps.
The country insists that any emoticons that hint at same-sex relations, which include men or women holding hands and the symbolic rainbow flag which is commonly used to symbolize the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community could spark public unrest in the Muslim-majority country. Speaking about the ban, Ismail Cawidu, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s ministry of information and communication, said the following.
“Such contents are not allowed in Indonesia based on our cultural law and the religious norms and the operators must respect that. Social media must respect the culture and local wisdom of the country where they have large numbers of users.”
While appreciating messaging app Line’s compliance, Cawidu added that the country’s ministry was concerned about the colorful emojis and stickers that could easily appeal to vulnerable children.
“Those things might be considered normal in some Western countries, while in Indonesia it’s practically impossible. The ministry is appreciative of Line Indonesia for their understanding and discretion in dealing with matters that could potentially cause public unrest, especially the concerns of mothers for their children in terms of the negative influence the circulation of these LGBT stickers could cause.”
Interestingly, Line app’s management announced earlier this week that it was removing LGBT-themed stickers from its Indonesian store not because of the ban. The platform was ridding itself of gay emojis because it received complaints from Indonesians on social media. Line officially released a statement apologizing for stickers considered sensitive by “many” on Facebook and added that it was in the process of removing certain stickers.
Cawidu further confirmed that the ministry has officially contacted all companies that use such content, including Twitter and Facebook, and failure to comply with the request to remove the emojis could lead to the apps being banned in Indonesia, reported ABC News.
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Indonesia does not have any specific laws that deal with or ban homosexuality. However, the world’s most populous Muslim country has routinely taken decisions that clearly go against the LGBT community. At the beginning of this year, the University of Indonesia asked a LGBT support group to stop functioning, as they “did not have permission to hold meetings on campus.” The support group was offering sex education and counseling for LGBT students. The Inquisitr had reported that Indonesia’s province of Aceh had deemed gay sex as an offense and would be punishable with 100 lashes.
Human Rights Watch has expressed strong concern at what it describes as a “spate of hateful rhetoric by public officials against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” people in Indonesia, reported News Republic.
“We write to express our grave concerns regarding the recent spate of hateful rhetoric by public officials against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia, and urge you to send an unambiguous message that your administration will defend the fundamental rights of all Indonesians.”
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