The Indonesian government has censored gay-themed emojis and is sending a message to social media platforms operating in the country: You must respect what a spokesman for its Communication and Information Ministry referred to as "cultural law," Agence France-Presse reported today.
The government has succeeded in eliminating emojis featuring same-gender couples, rainbow flags, and other gay-themed icons from the popular Indonesian LINE messaging app store and even received an apology from the Japanese-Korean company.
"LINE regrets the incidents of some stickers which are considered sensitive by many people," officials with the messaging app said in a statement posted on Facebook. "We ask for your understanding because at the moment we are working on this issue to remove the stickers."
Ismail Cawidu, spokesman for the Communication and Information Ministry, said gay-themed emjoiis are not allowed in the country. He told AFP that the Indonesian government contacted companies with similar emojis, including Twitter and Facebook, asking them to remove the emojis, adding that failure to do so could lead to the apps being banned in Indonesia.
"Such contents are not allowed in Indonesia based on our cultural law and the religious norms and the operators must respect that," Cawidu told AFP.
This is not the first time governments have gone after LGBT-themed emojis. Last year Russian media outlets announced that Apple was under scrutiny for its inclusive emoticons. The emojis are built into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system and show characters of the same gender holding hands, hugging, and kissing.
Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, and while homosexuality is not outlawed nationwide, according to AFP, in 2014 one province estbablished religion-based Sharia law, criminalizing same-sex relationships and allowing for the punishment of 100 lashes.