The Indonesian government has demanded that apps and social networks remove all stickers and emoji depicting lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender themes, describing the imagery as causing "unrest" in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. Japanese messaging app Line has already taken down the stickers from its service and apologized to the country's government, and according to tech site Coconuts Jakarta, WhatsApp will also be asked to remove similar offending items.
"We voluntarily removed the stickers as we have been aware that some concerns were raised in regards to culturally sensitive content," said Line, reports The Financial Times. The country's information and communication ministry said in a statement: "We are banning these stickers because they were causing unrest in society, especially among parents [...] The government can’t allow LGBT images that cause unrest, especially in relation to the religious and cultural norms in Indonesia."
Last October, Indonesian police arrested a pair of women for hugging in public
Indonesia is constitutionally secular, but almost 90 percent of the country's estimated 255 million population is Muslim, and the religion holds great sway in the nation's society and culture. Although there are no country-wide laws against homosexuality, some states take a harder line. Last October, for example, the province of Banda Aceh instituted Sharia law, and police in the state have since arrested a pair of women for hugging in public, while others have been publicly caned for gambling and adultery.
While Line is the first app to capitulate to the government's demands (as of 2014, Indonesia was Line's second biggest market), it might be trickier for other tech companies to do the same, even if they are willing to abide by local "customs." According to a report from Quartz, the offending stickers removed by Line were accessible via an in-app store, making them easy to take down. For other apps and social networks, LGBT-themed pride is more integrated. Apple, for example, has emoji depicting same-sex couples built right into its keyboard.