Messaging app removes same-sex emoticons in Indonesia

Messaging app removes same-sex emoticons in Indonesia
PHOTO: Reuters

Following a social-backlash and warnings from the government, Japanese-based mobile chat application Line issued an apology on Friday for offering stickers featuring same-sex couples.

"We uphold the global standards, we filter culturally sensitive content," Line Indonesia spokesman Teddy Arifianto said in a statement received by thejakartapost.com.

Teddy said that the company is sorry that the sensitive stickers were deemed as offensive as they were meant as an elaborate version of an emoticon, which are created by external parties from around the world and can be bought by Line users on its online store.

Line is reported to have subsequently removed all stickers considered to be culturally sensitive for users of the messaging app within the Indonesian market and would continue to monitor its search engine for any other inappropriate content.

Information and Communication Ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu said Thursday that social media and messaging platforms should drop stickers that expressed support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community.

The government's recent warning to Line is the latest in a string of visible discouragement shown toward homosexuality within the socially conservative country. Although homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, it remains a sensitive issue.

Technology, Research, and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir previously said, on the basis that a university is deemed to be a moral safeguard, that LGBT students should be banned from university campuses following news that a proactive organisation at the University of Indonesia (UI) named the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC) were organising activities and offering counseling for LGBT students.

Nasir's statement sparked a weeks-long public debate and other officials, including the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan, the People's Consultative Assembly chairman Zulkifli Hasan, House of Representatives member Reni Marliawati and Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, have voiced similar sentiment with regard to the LGBT community. The Indonesian Ulema Council, the influential board of Muslim clerics, also voiced their concerns.

Meanwhile, human rights groups with the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM), describe the statements made by the public officials as a violation of human rights and suggest that they are contradictory to the fundamental principles of the nation.

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