Twitter replaces its gun emoji with a water gun

Twitter has now followed Apple’s lead in changing its pistol emoji to a harmless, bright green water gun. And in doing so, the company that has struggled to handle the abuse, hate speech and harassment taking place across its platform, has removed one of the means for online abusers to troll their victims.

The change is one of several rolling out now in Twitter’s emoji update, Twemoji 2.6, which impacts Twitter users on the web, mobile web, and on Tweetdeck.

Below: Apple’s water gun

Below: Twitter’s water gun

The decision to replace an emoji of a weapon to a child’s toy was seen as a political statement when Apple in 2016 rolled out its own water gun emoji in iOS 10. The company had also argued against the addition of a rifle emoji, ultimately leading to the Unicode’s decision to remove the gun from its list of new emoji candidates that same year.

With these moves, Apple was effectively telling people that a gun didn’t have a place in the pictorial language people commonly use when messaging on mobile devices.

These sorts of changes matter because of emoji’s ability to influence culture and its function as a globally understood form of communication. That’s why so much attention is given to those emoji updates that go beyond the cosmetic – like updates that offer better representations of human skin tones, show different types of family groupings or relationships, or those give various professions – like a police officer or a scientist – both male and female versions, for example.

In the case of the water pistol, Apple set a certain standard that others in the industry have since followed.

Samsung also later replaced its gun with a water gun, as did WhatsApp. Google, meanwhile, didn’t follow Apple’s lead saying that it believed in cross-platform communication. Many others left their realistic gun emojis alone, too, including Microsoft.

“The main problem with the different appearances of the pistol emoji has been the potential for confusion when one platform displays this as an innocuous toy, and another shows the same emoji as a weapon. This was particularly an issue in 2016 when Apple changed the pistol emoji out of step with every single other vendor at the time,” notes Jeremy Burge, Emojipedia’s founder and Vice Chair on the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. “Now we’re seeing multiple vendors all changing to a water pistol image all in a similar timeframe with Samsung and Twitter both changing their design this year,” he says.

On Twitter, however, the updated gun emoji very much comes across as a message about where the company stands (or aims to stand) on abuse and violence. A gun – as opposed to a water gun – can be far more frightening when accompanied with a threat of violence in a tweet.

The change also arrives at a time when Twitter is trying – some would say unsuccessfully – to better manage the bad behavior that takes place on its platform. Most recently, it decided to publicize its rules around abuse to see if people would then choose to follow them. It has also updated its guidelines and policies for how it would handle online abusers to mixed results.

In addition, the change feels even more like a political message than the Apple emoji update did given its timing – in the wake of Parkland, the youth-led #NeverAgain movement, the YouTube shooting, and the increased focus on the NRA’s contributions to politicians.

Twitter has confirmed the change in an email with TechCrunch, saying the decision was made for “consistency” with the others who have changed.

However, Emojipedia shows that not all companies have updated to the water gun. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Messenger, LG, HTC, EmojiOne, emojidex, and Mozilla still offer a realistic pistol, not the green toy.

But Apple and Samsung perhaps hold more weight when it comes to where things are headed.

“I know some users object to what they see as censorship on their emoji keyboard, but I can certainly see why companies today might want to ensure that they aren’t showing a weapon where iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users now have a toy gun,” Burge says. “It’s pretty much the opposite to the issue with Apple being out of step with other vendors in 2016.”

 

The gun was the most notable change in Twemoji 2.6, but Emojipedia notes that other emoji have been updated as well, including the kitchen knife (which now looks like more of a vegetable slicer than a weapon for stabbing), the Crystal Ball, the Alembic (a glass vessel with water), and the Magnifying Glass, with more minor tweaks to the Coat, Eyes, and emoji faces with horns.

Image credits: Emojipedia; Apple Water Gun: Apple

Twitter joins Facebook in supporting the Honest Ads Act

Twitter has officially announced its support for the Honest Ads Act a week after Facebook did the same via the latter's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Which is appropriate given the bill exists because election-influencing ads ran rampant on both platforms lea…

Twitter endorses the Honest Ads Act, a bill promoting political ad transparency

Just hours before social media companies face a regulatory reckoning with Facebook’s appearance on the Hill, Twitter is taking a step to get right with Congress.

In a series of tweets from its public policy account, Twitter just announced its decision to back the Honest Ads Act, a piece of legislation introduced last year as a response to mounting evidence that Russia leveraged domestic social media platforms in an attempt influence U.S. politics during the 2016 presidential election.

After initially avoiding a commitment to the bill, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg endorsed the proposal last Friday. “Election interference is a problem that’s bigger than any one platform, and that’s why we support the Honest Ads Act,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post addressing foreign election influence campaigns. “This will help raise the bar for all political advertising online.”

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, the bill’s supporters saw an opportunity to apply pressure to the generally regulation-averse social media platforms and that strategy appears to be paying off.

Introduced in October by Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar with endorsement from prominent Republican Senator John McCain, the bill would impose ad transparency requirements on social media platforms, websites and ad networks that see more than 50 million unique visitors a month.

The Honest Ads Act’s proposed reforms are threefold:

  • Amending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s definition of electioneering communication to include paid Internet and digital advertisements.
  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.”

Warner called Twitter’s decision a “huge step forward” for the Honest Ads Act, adding that he hoped it would encourage Google to follow suit in supporting the bill’s mission to “bring accountability and transparency to online political ads.”

Twitter will show users its rules to discourage abuse

Twitter just promised to watch breaking events closely to curb trolling and fake news, but how does it stop users from getting trouble into first place? The answer might be simple: show people the rules before they do something wrong. It's launchin…

Twitter delays API change that could break Tweetbot, Twitterific, etc.

This morning, the developers of third-party Twitter clients Tweetbot, Twitterific, Tweetings and Talon banded together to highlight upcoming API changes that could potentially break the way their apps work. As you might expect, their collective user base — a base largely made up of folks who need more out of their Twitter app than the official one offers (or folks who, you know, just want a native Mac app after Twitter killed the official one) — got loud.

In response, Twitter has just announced plans to delay the API change for the time being.

Originally scheduled for June 19th, 2018, the API change would see Twitter’s “streaming” API replaced with its new “Account Activity” API.

The problem? The aforementioned developers point out that, with just two months before the change was set to be made, they and other third-party devs hadn’t gotten access to the new API — and changes like this take time to implement correctly.

Meanwhile, even once implemented, the new API seems to have limitations that could keep these apps from working as they do today, potentially breaking things like push notifications and automatic timeline refreshes. You can read the developer group’s breakdown here.

Twitter isn’t giving a new date for when it expects to retire the streaming API, but says that it’ll give “at least 90 days notice.”

Twitter changes may bring major issues for third-party apps

If you use a third-party Twitter app like Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Talon or Tweetings, you might lose a couple of key features when Twitter replaces developer access to User and Site streams with a new Account Activity API this coming June. The folks…

Twitter will publicize rules around abuse to test if behavior changes

As part of Twitter’s efforts to rid its platform of abuse and hate, the company is teaming up with researchers Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and J. Nathan Matias, a post-doc research associate at Princeton University, to study online abuse. Today, Twitter is going to start testing an idea that if it shows people its rules, behavior will improve.

“In an experiment starting today, Twitter is publicizing its rules, to test whether this improves civility,” Benesch and Matias wrote on Medium. “We proposed this idea to Twitter and designed an experiment to evaluate it.”

The idea is that by showing people the rules, their behavior will improve on the platform. The researchers point to evidence of when institutions clearly publish rules, people are more likely to follow them.

The researchers assure the privacy of Twitter users will be protected. For example, Twitter will only provide anonymized, aggregated information.

“Since we will not receive identifying information on any individual person or Twitter account, we cannot and will not mention anyone or their Tweets in our publications,” the researchers wrote.

Last month, Twitter began soliciting proposals from the public to help the social network capture, measure and evaluate healthy interactions on the platform. This was part of Twitter’s commitment “to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet.

It’s not clear how widespread the test will be. I’ve reached out to Twitter and will update this story if I learn more, but it seems that the company won’t be releasing specifics.

In the meantime, holler at me (megan@techcrunch.com) if these rules show up for you.

Upcoming Twitter Changes to Disable Key Features in Third-Party Apps

Twitter is making changes to its API on June 19, and third-party Twitter clients are worried about the impact and Twitter’s lack of communication about the issue.

The developers behind popular third-party Twitter apps that include Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Talon, and Tweetings today teamed up to warn users about the upcoming changes and to hopefully spur Twitter to action.



On June 19, Twitter plans to remove several streaming service APIs that are used by third-party apps. Disabling these APIs will prevent third-party Twitter apps from sending push notifications and refreshing Twitter timelines automatically.

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We’ve been waiting for more than a year.

Twitter is replacing its current streaming APIs with a new Account Activity API, which is in beta testing, but third-party developers have not been given access. With access to the Account Activity APIs, third-party Twitter clients say they might be able to enable some push notifications, but Twitter has also provided no detail on pricing. Automatic refresh of the timeline is set to be disabled entirely.

Automatic refresh of your timeline just won’t work: there is no web server on your mobile device or desktop computer that Twitter can contact with updates. Since updating your timeline with other methods is rate-limited by Twitter, you will see delays in real-time updates during sporting events and breaking news.

The developers behind Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Talon, and Tweetings are asking customers to contact the @TwitterDev account to correct the situation and to use the #BreakingMyTwitter hashtag to spread awareness.

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