The Indonesian government has issued an ultimatum to popular messaging apps: remove emoji that show same sex couples or families, or face a potential ban in the country.
According to AFP the emoji in question are those that show same-sex couples holding hands, families with same-sex parents, and the rainbow flag. A spokesman for the Indonesia's Ministry of Communications and Informatics also told the BBC that the emoji in question are being disallowed because of the "culture and local wisdom of the country."
One messaging app, LINE, has already capitulated and removed the emoji in question (in their case they were images unique to the app, rather than Unicode emoji native to smartphones). The company said that "LINE regrets the incidents of some stickers which are considered sensitive by many people," in a statement. The popular, Facebook-owned messenger WhatsApp has yet to respond.
While homosexuality isn't a crime in Indonesia, LGBT artists and activists in the country have faced "challenges…often from society" in the past few years, and there are few protections based on sexual orientation. The emoji ban comes on the heels of a statement late last month by country's Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir, who he said that he "would only ban LGBT people from entering campuses if they engage in disgraceful behavior like making love or showing affection," after claiming that the government should not recognize the LGBT community, even if it accorded them equal rights.
Meanwhile, Indonesian activist Hartoyo (who was beaten for being gay several years ago while living in the region of Aceh) has condemned the ban, saying that it stands for larger currents in the government's treatment of LGBT Indonesians. He told AFP, "The government has let this ignorance go on for far too long and it has put our nation in danger."
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org