Gun control is an obvious divisive issue and gets even more divisive when corporations jump into the debate.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL)'s new operating system appears to have replaced the gun emoji with a squirt gun. According to an op-ed by Jonathan Zittrain, which was published in the New York Times, this is a move that is making a lot of people unhappy.
Apple's decision to remove the emoji gun could have been due to pressure from the #DisarmTheiPhone campaign which was overseen by a public relations firm working with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. However, as noted by Zittrain, the campaign did not call on individuals to cease using the gun emoji — it called on Apple to "prevent, in one swoop, anyone from sending or receiving that cartoon image of a handgun."
There is one problem with Apple's decision to ban its own emoji gun. When an iPhone user sends the new water pistol emoji to an Android device, the water pistol will turn into the handgun emoji when it is received on the Android device.
"When it comes to restrictions, technology companies should limit only speech that breaks clearly stated and openly applied rules, not deprive us of entire tools and means of expression," Zittrain, a professor of computer science and international law at Harvard University, wrote.
Zittrain may have suggested that Apple is treading on thin ice. He noted that Apple is taking a stance against both the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and the First, which "guarantees freedom of speech, including speech about arms [emphasis omitted]."
Zittrain added that Apple does have a right to "favor gun control as a matter of corporate policy," but the company does not have the right to be "tinkering with our right to express either that or a contrary view on worldwide platforms."
"Apple, Microsoft, Google and other 'big tech' companies should not be placed in a position, which they themselves do not want, of having to decide which words or emojis do and don't represent their brand," he concluded.
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