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Reports of ‘homophobic’ emoji set off online uproar. What’s going on?

A glitch allows people to create what some are calling a homophobic emoji by combining pride flag and banned emoji codes, Twitter says. The struck-through pride flag appears only on mobile devices.
A glitch allows people to create what some are calling a homophobic emoji by combining pride flag and banned emoji codes, Twitter says. The struck-through pride flag appears only on mobile devices. Twitter

A new rash of reports of an emoji showing a gay pride flag with a “no” or “banned” symbol partly superimposed on it have Twitter roiling, Out reports.

The symbol, which some are calling homophobic, appears to be the result of a seeming glitch created when users post the code for the rainbow flag followed by the banned symbol, Heavy reports. The mashed-together emoji appears only on mobile apps.

“The way the emoji appears is due to Unicode presentation on iOS, and on its own is not a violation of our rules,” a Twitter spokesperson said, Paper reported. “However, if a user is targeted with this kind of emoji, and we have context that the intention is to shame, degrade, or harass based on membership (or perceived membership) in a protected category, we will action under our Hateful Conduct policies.”

Despite the latest uproar, some online posters have known about the “banned” glitch for years, Fast Company reports. Emojipedia wrote about it in 2016, according to the publication.

Jeremy Burge, founder and editor of Emojipedia, wrote in a series of Twitter posts Tuesday and Wednesday that the superimpositon of the “banned” symbol on other emojis, including the gay pride flag, is not a glitch but simply how the strike-through emoji works. He criticized some media coverage of the topic.

“I get that not everyone can be an expert on everything but when it comes to hateful messages and trolling attempts to create a narrative that don’t (yet) exist in the public sphere: perhaps take a bit more time before hitting publish on the article,” Burge wrote on Twitter.

Even so, word of the seeming anti-pride flag symbol immediately went viral.

“WHY IS THERE AN ANTI GAY FLAG EMOJI... IM SCREAMING,” posted one upset Twitter user.

“oh my god why is there a no gay flag emoji?” asked another post.

“why is there a flag emoji for homophobes?” wrote another Twitter poster.



Others, however, appealed for calm.

“Y’all realize that the emoji isn’t just for the gay pride flag right? It works for all emojis,” read one Twitter post.

“STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION AS A JOKE,” demanded another Twitter poster.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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