Russian Police Investigate Apple Over Gay Emojis

A 2013 law in Russia bans the public display of some LGBT symbols.

Russia anti-gay protesters
Anti-gay protesters try to tear a rainbow flag during an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community rally in central Moscow, Russia, May 30. Russian authorities have opened an investigation against U.S. technology company Apple over its inclusion of gay emoji.Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Russian authorities have opened an investigation against U.S. technology company Apple over its inclusion of gay emojis in its operating system, according to police documents published by Russian news site Gazeta.ru.

A controversial Russian law which came into force in 2013 banned the public display of a wide range of LGBT symbols and images, classifying them as dangerous for promoting "nontraditional family types" to children.

Under this law, often referred to as the law on "gay propaganda", police in Russia's Kirov region have opened an administrative case to investigate whether the emojis available on Apple's products which portray same-sex couples, or characters carrying LGBT Pride flags, are in violation of Russian law.

The case was opened after local attorney Yaroslav Mikhailov filed a complaint in August with the local prosecutor about the emojis included on Apple's iOS 8.3 operating system. According to the documents published by Gazeta, Kirov police found this reason enough to begin a formal investigation and showed sample of the emojis to a judiciary panel who are due to decide whether the symbols constitute a "danger" to the welfare of minors under the controversial Russian law.

If found guilty, Apple could be fined up to 1 million roubles ($15,000) and face a country-wide ban on its goods if it does not pay the resulting fine. There have previously been several complaints about Apple's LGBT emojis in Russia, however this is the first known instance of a police investigation being launched into the matter.

In April St. Petersburg representative Vitaly Milonov told state news he would urge Russia's consumer rights body to ban Apple's iOS8 if they did not release a special version of the operating system without the LGBT emojis or market them with 18+ stickers.

In July, Russia's online watchdog asked the youth wing of Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party to investigate whether or not the use of gay emojis was in violation of Russian law. Newsweek could not conclude what the outcome of either initiative was.

Earlier this summer, United Russia's Moscow branch launched a controversial campaign to celebrate Russia's day of the family, an annual celebration of traditional values, with a flag portraying a heterosexual couple and their children with the caption "A Real Family."

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