It’s often said that humor is subjective, especially when it comes to emojis—a fact reflected in a new controversy that's brewing over WhatsApp’s collection of symbols and pictures. Surprisingly, it’s got nothing to do with the grinning poop.
A Delhi, India-based lawyer named Gurmeet Singh has taken such an exception to WhatsApp’s middle finger emoji that he’s threatening to file a civil or criminal complaint against the company if it’s not removed within 15 days.
In the legal notice, Singh states that "showing the middle finger is not only offensive but a highly belligerent, invasive, obscene, lewd gesture." India’s Penal Code Sections 354 and 509 make it illegal to show obscene, lewd gestures to females.
“As per section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 showing off the middle finger is also an offense in Ireland," Singh added. "By offering to use middle finger emoji in your app, you (WhatsApp Inc) are directly abetting the use of offensive, lewd, obscene gesture."
On the Emojipedia website, the middle finger emoji, available on multiple platforms, is described as “used in some western cultures as a rude or insulting gesture. The back of the hand is shown with the middle finger raised.” It was approved as part of Unicode 7.0 in 2014 and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015.
The Facebook-owned service hasn’t had the smoothest of times in India this year. Following warnings that any posts considered to be fake news could lead to the arrest of group administrators, police in the Indian state of Karnataka showed this wasn't an empty promise back in May. They arrested one WhatsApp admin after members of his group shared a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was photoshopped to look “ugly and obscene.”