Apple Pledges to Increase Diversity of Its Emoji Collection

smiley frown emoji

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) emoji collection may soon be upgraded with a more ethnically diverse selection of characters according to a statement recently released by a company spokesperson, reports MTV Act. Emojis are the tiny cartoon ideograms that are widely used as shorthand representations for emotions or words in emails and texts. The graphic symbols originated in Japan but are now ubiquitous across various messaging platforms. However, only a few of the emoji s in Apple’s current collection appear to represent non-Caucasian ethnicities.

Apple’s decision to include more ethnicities in its emoji collection was prompted by an email from MTV Act to Apple CEO Tim Cook. MTV Act asked if the Cupertino-based company was planning on issuing a more diverse set of emojis. Within a day, it had received a response from Apple vice president of worldwide corporate communications Katie Cotton.

“Tim forwarded your email to me,” wrote Cotton in an email to MTV Act. “We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

As noted by Gizmodo, this won’t be the first time that Apple has revised its emoji collection to include more diverse characters. Apple previously added emojis that represent gay and lesbian couples when it released iOS 6 in 2012. Apple has long been a supporter of LGBT rights and last year CEO Tim Cook wrote a commentary for The Wall Street Journal in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or ENDA, that seeks to end employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. During an awards ceremony hosted by Auburn University last December, Cook described his experience of seeing a cross-burning while he was growing up in 1960s Alabama and how it affected his views on human rights and equality.

Although the lack of ethnic diversity in emoji collections may seem to be a rather minor issue in the overall struggle for equality, Bernie Hogan — an Oxford University research fellow who is doing a study that includes examining the use of emojis – noted that this seemingly “trivial problem” is actually related to a larger issue of freedom of expression, reports the Inquisitr. “Emoji exist first and foremost as a way to augment texts with clear expressive power,” Hogan told the Inquisitr. “If they restrict the sort of people who are used in the images it restricts users’ expressive power — people won’t feel that the emoji speak for them.”

So who kicked off this movement for ethnically-diverse emojis? According to MTV Act’s Joey Parker, perennial tabloid subject Miley Cyrus initiated the discussion with a “#emojiethnicityupdate” tweet in 2012.

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