Apple to Diversify Its Emojis Following Nationwide Criticism

By Julissa Catalan


Via Apple iOS7

On Tuesday, tech giant Apple announced that it will be updating its emoji keyboard to incorporate a more ethnically diverse selection.

The announcement came in response to a DoSomething.org petition, established last year, which states:

“But of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”

Emojis are smileys and graphics commonly used in text messages and emails on mobile devices. Created by Japanese developers, emoji literally translates to “picture character.”

Apple Vice President of Worldwide Communications Katie Cotton sent the following statement to MTV Act.

“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,” Cotton wrote.

The tech company has also cited emojis’ Japanese origins as a partial reason for the lack of racial representation. Previous campaigns have called to include cupcakes, hot dogs, and tacos to the food emoji selectionwhich currently includes a bento box, fried shrimp, multiple rice bowls and sushi.

In typical Apple fashion, further details on the emoji update have been kept under wraps, and it has yet to set a release date.

To some familiar with the tech industry’s reputation, the lack of diversity from an Apple product comes as no big surprise, and neither does the secrecy surrounding it.

A multiyear investigation by Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News showed that some of the top companies in Silicon Valley withhold their diversity stats and go to great lengths to keep them unknown. Apple is one of these companies.

Companies of 100 employees or more are legally required to file an EEO-1 form each year. This is a one-page document that lists employees according to their gender and race.

Big businesses have the option to share their EEO-1 information. Apple, along with other Silicon Valleybased companies like Google and Yahoo!, decline to share these stats, and even filed a lawsuit to block release requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

A judge granted this block.

According to Labor Department Associate Solicitor William W. Thompson II,”The companies have articulated to us that they are in a highly competitive environment in which less mature corporations can use this EEO-1 data to assist in structuring their business operations to better compete against more established competitors.”

Apple’s 2012 update introduced same-gender couples and families into the emoji keyboard as part of iOS 6, making consumers hopeful that Black and Latino emojis were close behind.

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