August 16, 2016

"Apple, Microsoft, Google and other 'big tech' companies should not be placed in a position... of having to decide which words or emojis do and don’t represent their brand."

"Apple should be no more responsible if someone uses a gun image in the abstract than if someone happens to type the word 'gun.'"

Writes Harvard lawprof Jonathan Zittrain — in a NYT op-ed.

31 comments:

AReasonableMan said...

Now the gun lobby wants gun emojis everywhere?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

AReasonableMan said...

Now the gun lobby wants gun emojis everywhere?

I would assume that, as the country's preeminent civil rights organization, the NRA is interested in supporting people's ability to engage in free speech as well as defend themselves against their fellow citizens or their government.

Mark said...

Emoji use on globally standardized devices is a US free speech issue?

No wonder your generation has lost the millenials.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Hands Up! Don't Emoji!"

I am Laslo.

Mick said...

"Harvard Law prof" automatically alerts me to the fact that he knows nothing of the law or the Constitution, or pretends to with the purpose of undermining and perverting it.

Gahrie said...

Apple should be no more responsible if someone uses a gun image in the abstract than if someone happens to type the word 'gun

I doubt whether any serious person would hold them so responsible. Thew problem is, Apple, google et al want the power to censor and mold language in an effort to shape and mold public opinion.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Mark said...

Emoji use on globally standardized devices is a US free speech issue?

Absolutely. I'm not saying it is a first amendment issue, or that the government should get involved and force the companies to do this or that. But if tech companies are going to try to limit what can be easily expressed on their platforms, then hell yes that is a US free speech issue, and Americans should push back against it.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Wasn't emoji some movie with Robin Williams in it?

Clayton Hennesey said...

I'm thinking an African-American angry face emoji to afix to comments about Milwaukee is probably not going to be a thing any time soon.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

AReasonableMan said...
Now the gun lobby wants gun emojis everywhere?


It's hard to tell if you're being sarcastic here, ARM; if only someone would invent a little pictorial representation of a feeling or emotion--a symbol or icon, say, to convey an idea or sense of meaning...oh well.

Paco Wové said...

I just looked at my phone – eek! there's a pistol emoji! and no trigger warning! Not to mention a knife, swords, a bomb and even – gasp – a lit cigarette!

HoodlumDoodlum said...

And of course, ARM, once you read the op-ed you'll see the more-apt expression of incredulity is "now the anti-gun crowd wants to ban even icons of guns?!"

This is a logical extension of the typical Left move of using whatever power they have to make opposition and argument impossible (or as difficult as possible). They do their best to control the means of communication (both the channels and the words themselves)--how many words/phrases can you think of, just off the top of your head, that the Left has argued are racist when applied to President Obama? They label everything sexist, racist, and homophobic and use those labels to shut people up--if you don't agree not only will you not get a platform from which to share your disagreement, but you'll be denied the use of language and ideas you might use to make your argument! Banning any representation of firearms may seem like a trivial example, but it's just a small part of the overall trend.

It's Newspeak for a new age!

Freeman Hunt said...

So if someone with an iPhone sends a sqirt gun emoji to someone with an Android phone, that person will receive a real gun emoji? No, no possibility of misunderstanding there.

Mike said...

Since it appeared on its face to be an article in favor of free speech in the NYT I had to click through and try and understand what this guy was really up to. To my surprise he really was arguing for a small-D democratic approach to emojis, whereby the users create their own and the "more popular" ones become standardized. That paragraph seemed to imply that's how we got emojis in the first place, but then didn't explicitly go there. Still, an almost free market thought expressed in the NYT is a mighty rare thing!

But professor Zittrain was building on a shakier premise in the following paragraph that Althouse quoted. As usual in the NYT the shaky premise is revealed by the sudden shift to passive voice: companies should not be placed in a position... and the part Althouse elipted which they themselves do not want. Huh?

To see how I missed this forcing upon Apple Google et al a role of brand protection which they themselves do not want I reviewed the entire article again. There are no examples. It's like this whole work by the Harvard Professor is the second half of a tech discussion in which we, the reader, are not given the benefit of knowing what happened in the first half. It feels like a straw man argument, as the only concrete fact presented is that Apple changed the realistic cartoon gun to a cartoon squirt gun. His (again passively voiced) attempt to connect this with Chinese censorship of Skype vocabulary was weakly worded. It would have been stronger had he come out and opposed censorship or even used the word "censorship" but he didn't.

Maybe arguing against the commie country's statist tactics would have ruffled Tom Friedman's feathers or something. There's gotta be some reason why a man ostensibly arguing for free expression can't use -- or editors excised from his copy -- the term that clearly describes anti-expression actions.

Unknown said...

AKA "crimethink."

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Emoji use on globally standardized devices is a US free speech issue?

No wonder your generation has lost the millenials.


Yes, it is a horrible tragedy that young Americans do not understand and protect the importance of free expression.

rhhardin said...

Use of emojis in programs as part of variable names requires that the images be standardized, for readability.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoodlumDoodlum said...

What was the purpose of newspeak, again? Oh yeah: to restrict what ideas and concepts could be created by the minds of the people under the State's power. By making it difficult to describe something with language you make it difficult to hold that idea itself, and much more difficult to communicate or disseminate it. I know it sounds a bit grandiose, tying the push to ban gun emojis to what Orwell properly understood was the ideal tool of totalitarianism in the age of mass media, but the underlying motivation is very similar.

Think for a moment about the absurdity of the Left and Media's choices in what things to normalize and what things to de-normalize. How many law-abiding gun owners are there in the U.S. and how many (just to pick one example) non-gender-conforming school children are there? Which is "strange" or "weird," numerically speaking? Right, obviously--but which one is treated as normal, or cool, or even represented as common in the Media? Right, also obvious. How many shows do you see with good transgender characters and how many do you see with good gun-owning characters (and just for fun, again compare those with their representative portion of the actual US population)?

But, anyway, the Left is all about love and tolerance...

HoodlumDoodlum said...

When a company does something the Left likes that company is said to be acting out of corporate social responsibility, and that's good.

When a company does something the Left doesn't like it's said to be chilling individual freedom, pushing its ideology on helpless citizens and consumers, an example of big money pushing around and bullying the little guy, and that's bad.

The Left cheers the idea of a company taking actions to possibly restrict expression of ideas the Left doesn't like. The Left jeers at a company taking actions to express the company's own ideas when those ideas aren't ones the Left agrees with.

Perfectly consistent.

rhhardin said...

Morse code parenthesis doesn't distinguish right from left, so what might be a frowny face might well be a smiley face in morse.

I guess you have to go from context, as you do with LOL for lots of love or laugh out loud.

If it's a sympathy wish, it's probably the love one.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Let's see, Mark - imagine a group successfully pressured Apple to drop (or not display) the star and crescent "Islam" emoji (or one for a mosque--I think that exists) because, I dunno, terrorists used that emoji or it was part of some hate messages or something. Would that in any way be a "free speech issue?" It's still not the government doing it, maaaan, and we're all about safety and respect, bro.

Just because you can't imagine the Left ever losing one of these conflicts doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Mark said...

Hoodlum, I am not going to argue with words I would never say.

Come back when you have real statements I have made, not straw men.

Enjoy your tilting at windmills.

n.n said...

The scalpel, scissors, vacuum, and other tools are used to end the lives of several million human beings globally, annually under the Pro-Choice Church in the privacy of abortion chambers. If they want to remove symbols of wanton destruction, then they should consider these weapons of mass destruction, the corporate paraphernalia of Planned Parenthood, Democrat[ic] Party, etc. These weapons of mass destruction are used to disarm and cannibalize (i.e. spare parts) over one million Americans annually.

I wonder if the Pro-Choice Church still celebrates the life and achievements of Sanger, Mengele, Gosnell, and other historical and contemporary acolytes of their Church.

Oclarki said...

What about the eggplant emoji? That's the super rapey one.

Bob Matthews said...

Maybe people should be required to register and undergo a background check before using the gun emoji. I'm not trying to repeal the first amendment - we just need common sense emoji control.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Jonathan! Dude! You have been writing about law too long.

The full sentence is: 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.

I think what the man means is: Apple, Microsoft, Google and other “big tech” companies should not decide which words or emojis represent their brand.

Zittrain's concern seems to be that internet service providers censor communications between subscribers. That has little to do with "represent[ing] their brand."

Were the passive voice to be abjuratified, there might be brought about better facilicatification of communication.

gadfly said...

Does anyone really care whether we have handgun emojis or slingshots or spears or poison bottles or daisies even? I ask since I have rarely ever used them but I do notice that those who do, use them far too much. I suppose they are intimidated or are otherwise challenged to write using the "King's English."

Cheers to the Althouse blog which does not offer the option! Or do I give the credit to Blogger?

Quaestor said...

Why not ban all emojis (why isn't the plural emojies?) in the interest of literacy?

Jonathan Graehl said...

giving emojis to the masses: whoever supports them is responsible for the difference from communication without them. which is to say, probably nothing that matters much. for your consideration or alternatively for full psych. researcher employment:

1. are ideographs more visceral/triggering than words? i.e. is someone more likely to feel violent if they see little violence-being-done icons vs words?

2. considering that people can already record speech (podcasts, youtube, etc) is there any significant net-negative "helping dumb + violent people communicate better over the internet" effect from emojis?

mikee said...

I remember when National Lampoon came out with its revolutionary Sex Issue back decades ago, with a front cover blurb claiming the magazine contained an honest report on a woman's view of sex.

After multiple teasers inside, finally finding the correct page for the article, one saw a black& white, full page picture of a bedroom ceiling with a bare light bulb glowing in the fixture.

When will today's companies realize that they, too, have the power to ignore the feelings of their customers, and just provide good products for a huuuuuuuuge profit?