In what seems to be an effort to decrease the amount of gun violence portrayed in popular media images, Apple will be replacing the pistol emoji with a lime green squirt gun in the iOS 10 update for the iPhone and iPad.
More than 100 emojis will be added or redesigned with the update. While the company has made no statement on the gun emoji switch, they have highlighted some other changes. The emoji set is more gender diverse, with women appearing as construction workers and surfers, and includes a new rainbow flag and additional family configuration options.
Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia, said the change is uncommon:
“This is strange for Apple. I can’t think of another example of Apple doing much more than a graphics refinement. It’s rare for them to really overhaul what an emoji means.”
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence launched a campaign last year to #DisarmTheiPhone, and this move could be in response, reports Eva Botkin-Kowacki of the Christian Science Monitor.
Shiv Putcha, associate director of mobility and telecoms at the market intelligence firm IDC Asia-Pacific, said that there seems to be an implied political statement:
“I see the green water pistol as Apple’s innovative but telling way of announcing their position on a hot-button political issue.”
This May, Apple and other tech companies opposed the Unicode Consortium’s proposal to add a rifle emoji. Unicode, reports Margaret Rhodes of Wired, decides which emojis make it to users’ keyboards.
However, this won’t be changed on Android users’ and others’ keyboards. Burge noted:
“If Apple changes it, and other vendors don’t change it, there’s a real danger there, where some people send a humorous squirt gun and other people get something different.”
Unicode recently rolled out another change including a palette of skin tones for human emojis.
Other tech companies have made similar stands on the gun control issue. Uber’s Firearm Prohibition Policy prevents drivers from carrying guns while on the job, and Google’s advertising policy doesn’t allow the promotion of firearms.
Media violence is a controversial topic; experts tend to disagree on whether it causes violent behavior at all. One child may have more trouble than another distinguishing between fantasy and reality.
This July, the American Academy of Pediatrics spoke out about the impact of violent media on the behavior of children. In a statement, AAP Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Karen Remley stated that the organization aims to confront the violence in children’s lives and cure the root causes.
214 shooting incidents have taken place in the US since the beginning of 2016, according to Cheang Ming of CNBC. The deadliest was the Orlando nightclub shooting, which targeted a club frequented by gay and Latino people and resulted in the deaths of 49.
In 1998, it was found that the average child would have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on TV before they reached middle school. Now, violent video games are even more common, giving violence another platform through which children can be exposed.