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WeChat apologizes for showering Chinese users with American flag emoji

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Chinese messaging service WeChat has apologized to users in its home country after accidentally showering them with the emoji of the American flag. Citizens in China using the app created by tech giant Tencent complained that typing the phrase "civil rights" in English triggered animations of the patriotic icon raining down their screens. WeChat explained that this was simply an Easter egg celebrating Martin Luther King Day and that it had been intended to be seen American users only.

"internationalization is not easy!"

The flag emoji as they appeared on Chinese users' screens. (Weibo)

"Please forgive us for any misunderstanding caused!" said the company in a blog post on Weibo, explaining that a technical glitch had caused the emoji to appear in China. "The road towards internationalization is not easy!" Although WeChat’s emoji showers may sound odd they're a familiar sight to the app's 270 million international users. They're triggered in a variety of languages for phrases including "miss you" (sparkling emoji), "happy birthday" (cake emoji), and "xoxo" (kissing emoji), with WeChat often introducing holiday-specific keywords such as "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year." This appears to be the first year however that the company has tried to celebrate a US-only holiday.

The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese citizens complained via social media that the feature showed WeChat "pandering" to the US, with members of the Communist Youth League asking why were there no keywords that triggered similarly patriotic Chinese emoji. One widely-circulated post on microblogging site Weibo challenges Tencent to explain why they introduced the emoji in the first place, with the poster reportedly adding that in their opinion "American can't represent civil rights."