Apple and Microsoft put the kibosh on a proposed rifle emoji

apple earnings q4 2017 logo
Wondering why a rifle emoji is conspicuously absent from your iPhone’s pic library? You can thank Apple and Microsoft, apparently.

BuzzFeed reports that the two tech titans, both members of the Unicode Consortium — the organization charged with approving letters, digits, and symbols for the encoding standard Unicode — removed several gun-toting characters from consideration in the upcoming Unicode 9.0.

Apple and Microsoft raised their joint objection at the consortium’s quarterly May meeting, according to BuzzFeed. A rifle emoji had already been approved by a majority of members for inclusion in the Unicode 9.0 release in June, but Apple spearheaded an opposition effort. In what one BuzzFeed source described as an “unusual” move, the iPhone maker told the consortium it wouldn’t include the emoji in a future software update to its devices.

Ultimately, the company’s outsized influence — millions of iPhone users send messages containing Unicode emojis every day, and the company retains voting rights — effectively forced the other members to fall in line. (The members also agreed to remove a second, “pentathlon” emoji that depicts a figure holding a pistol among athletes.)

That’s not to say any of the Unicode consortium’s members resisted, necessarily — the decision to remove the rifle emoji was unanimous. And although the rifle in question won’t appear in iPhone or Android keyboards, it’ll still be added to Unicode 9.0’s black-and-white database of characters. But some members perceive the move as an acknowledgment of the increased political and ideological scrutiny the tech industry faces from consumers, advocacy groups, and government.

“We’re talking about engineers that are concerned about standards and internationalization issues who now have to do something more in line with Apple and Google’s marketing teams,” one member told BuzzFeed. “It is a bizarre and unusual situation.”

rifle-emoji

The initial reasoning behind the inclusion of the rifle emoji was relatively innocuous. It was intended to appear alongside a set of sports-themed icons — handball, water polo, and gymnastics, among others — timed to coincide with this year’s Olympic games in Rio, and indeed, Unicode’s webpage of proposed emojis includes descriptors for the rifle such as “shooting,” “hunting,” and “marksmanship.”

The rifle icon faced controversy almost immediately after its proposal, however. In 2016, a British gun control group told the BBC that the emoji would be “familiarizing and popularizing the image of a weapon.”

It isn’t the first time public pressure has motivated a Unicode member to break stride with the larger consortium. In July 2015, Microsoft included a middle finger emoji in its device’s keyboards. And Apple has historically been conservative when it comes to potentially controversial emojis: It excludes the gun and knife emoji from MacOS’s keyboard, for example.

The consortium is considering ways to prevent that sort of inconsistency in the future. New rules, if approved, would require the consortium’s 12 major voting vendors — a group that includes Oracle, Google, Facebook, IBM, Apple, and Yahoo —  to commit to “wide deployment” of an emoji before it could be considered eligible for approval.

Product Review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone is to cryptocurrency what the iPhone is to Apple Pay. It facilitates the payment, processing, and exchanging of cryptocurrencies on a smartphone, and surprisingly does it in a user-friendly way.
Home Theater

Make the most out of your new Apple TV with these must-have apps

If you're looking to turn your fourth-generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K into an all-in-one entertainment powerhouse, we can help you get started with this list of the best Apple TV apps you can download.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Computing

All signs point to a new Apple external display in 2019. Will it be 6K or 8K?

Will there be an Apple Display 2019? It looks like Apple is getting ready to announce a new monitor, after canceling its old Thunderbolt Display back in 2016. But what will this new display look like? Here's what we know.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. S10 Plus vs. S10e vs. S10 5G: Which should you buy?

With four stunning Galaxy S10 phones to choose from, Samsung is bombarding us with choice, but which one should you buy? We compare the S10, S10 Plus, S10e, and S10 5G in various categories to find out exactly how they differ.
Wearables

Samsung's new Galaxy Watch Active can track your blood pressure

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down the gym.
Mobile

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 this year

The Samsung Galaxy S10 boasts a number of hardware improvements over previous Samsung phones, but it also offers a few software improvements too. Adobe Premiere Rush CC, for example, is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 later this year.
Gaming

Samsung Galaxy S10 optimizations make it great for Fortnite

Samsung's new line of Galaxy S10 devices have been optimized for gaming. All three offer improved support for the Unity engine and the S10 Plus also offers vapor chamber cooling, similar to the Xbox One X.
Mobile

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.
Mobile

Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cases to protect your $1,000 phone

Can't get enough of big phones? The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely up your alley. But it's still fragile, and damage is easily gathered through normal life. Protect it with the best Galaxy S10 Plus cases.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Product Review

The Galaxy Watch Active is the right size for you, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.