Apple Under Investigation in Russia for Gay Emojis

Same Sex Emoji - H 2015
Courtesy of Apple

The computer company could be forced to remove the Emojis in question for "promoting homosexuality."

Russian police have launched an investigation into Apple under the country's anti-gay laws, saying that emojis that are part of the computer company's iOS 8.3 operating system update include images depicting families with same-sex parents, gay pride flags and other LGBT themes.

The "administrative case" under controversial laws that prohibit the propagation of homosexual (termed "non-traditional") relationships to minors, carry fines of between $12,000 and $15,000 if an offender is convicted.

The case, brought by police in Russia's Kirov region 600 miles northeast of Moscow, follows a complaint by a local attorney named Yaroslav Mikhailov, Russian newspaper Gazeta reported.

Mikhailov argued that that Apple is violating Russia's ban on so-called "gay propaganda" in the presence of minors by including the emojis in the iOs 8.3 package.

The case, opened last month, is awaiting expert analysis of the cartoon motifs to determine whether they count as "gay propaganda," the newspaper reported.

If found guilty Apple could face a fine of up to $15,000 and — theoretically — federal authorities could suspend its activities throughout Russia, including the use of the emojis in question.

The case comes at a time when Russia's LGBT community is again in the spotlight. Last week President Vladimir Putin phoned British singer and gay rights activist Elton John, promising to meet him to discuss the issue. The call followed an earlier prank call that fooled the singer into thinking he had spoken to the president.

Apple Russia did not respond to a request for comment on the Kirov case.