It’s unconstitutional for Trump to block people on Twitter

A uniquely 21st-century constitutional question received a satisfying answer today from a federal judge: President Trump cannot block people on Twitter, as it constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. The court also ruled he must unblock all previously blocked users. “No government official is above the law,” the judge concluded.

The question was brought as part of a suit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute, which alleged that the official Presidential Twitter feed amounts to a public forum, and that the government barring individuals from participating in it amounted to limiting their right to free speech.

After consideration, New York Southern District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald determined that this is indeed that case:

We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.

The President’s side argued that Trump has his own rights, and that in this case the choice not to engage with certain people on Twitter is among them. These are both true, Judge Buchwald found, but that doesn’t mean blocking is okay.

There is nothing wrong with a government official exercising their First Amendment rights by ignoring someone. And indeed that is what the “mute” function on Twitter is equivalent to. No harm is done to either party by the President choosing not to respond, and so he is free to do so.

But to block someone both prevents that person from seeing tweets and from responding to them, preventing them from even accessing a public forum. As the decision puts it:

We reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs…

While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the President’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him.

The court also examined the evidence and found that despite the Executive’s arguments that his Twitter accounts are, for various reasons, in part private and not subject to rules limiting government spaces, the President’s Twitter is definitively a public forum, meeting the criteria set out some time back by the Supreme Court.

At this point in time President Trump has by definition performed unconstitutional acts, but the court was not convinced that any serious legal remedy needs to be applied. And not because the Executive side of the case said it was monstrous of the Judicial to dare to tell it what to do:

While we find entirely unpersuasive the Government’s parade of horribles regarding the judicial interference in executive affairs presented by an injunction directing the President to comply with constitutional restrictions… declaratory relief is likely to achieve the same purpose.

By this the judge means that while the court would be legally in the clear if it issued an official order binding the Executive, but that there’s no reason to do so. Instead, merely declaring that the President is has violated the rules of the Constitution should be more than enough to compel his team to take the appropriate action.

Specifically, Trump and (it is implied but not stated specifically) all public officials are to unblock any blocked users on Twitter and never hit that block button again:

No government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional.

No timeline is set but it’s clear that the Executive is on warning. You can read the full decision here.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” said executive director of the Knight Institute, Jameel Jaffer, in a press release.

This also sets an interesting precedent as regarding other social networks; in fact, the Institute is currently representing a user in a similar complaint involving Facebook, but it is too early to draw any conclusions. The repercussions of this decision are likewise impossible to predict at this time, including whether and how other officials, such as Senators and Governors, are also bound by these rules. Legal scholars and political agents will almost certainly weigh in on the issue heavily over the coming weeks.

The formula behind San Francisco’s startup success

Why has San Francisco’s startup scene generated so many hugely valuable companies over the past decade?

That’s the question we asked over the past few weeks while analyzing San Francisco startup funding, exit, and unicorn creation data. After all, it’s not as if founders of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Dropbox and Twitter had to get office space within a couple of miles of each other.

We hadn’t thought our data-centric approach would yield a clear recipe for success. San Francisco private and newly public unicorns are a diverse bunch, numbering more than 30, in areas ranging from ridesharing to online lending. Surely the path to billion-plus valuations would be equally varied.

But surprisingly, many of their secrets to success seem formulaic. The most valuable San Francisco companies to arise in the era of the smartphone have a number of shared traits, including a willingness and ability to post massive, sustained losses; high-powered investors; and a preponderance of easy-to-explain business models.

No, it’s not a recipe that’s likely replicable without talent, drive, connections and timing. But if you’ve got those ingredients, following the principles below might provide a good shot at unicorn status.

First you conquer, then you earn

Losing money is not a bug. It’s a feature.

First, lose money until you’ve left your rivals in the dust. This is the most important rule. It is the collective glue that holds the narratives of San Francisco startup success stories together. And while companies in other places have thrived with the same practice, arguably San Franciscans do it best.

It’s no secret that a majority of the most valuable internet and technology companies citywide lose gobs of money or post tiny profits relative to valuations. Uber, called the world’s most valuable startup, reportedly lost $4.5 billion last year. Dropbox lost more than $100 million after losing more than $200 million the year before and more than $300 million the year before that. Even Airbnb, whose model of taking a share of homestay revenues sounds like an easy recipe for returns, took nine years to post its first annual profit.

Not making money can be the ultimate competitive advantage, if you can afford it.

Industry stalwarts lose money, too. Salesforce, with a market cap of $88 billion, has posted losses for the vast majority of its operating history. Square, valued at nearly $20 billion, has never been profitable on a GAAP basis. DocuSign, the 15-year-old newly public company that dominates the e-signature space, lost more than $50 million in its last fiscal year (and more than $100 million in each of the two preceding years). Of course, these companies, like their unicorn brethren, invest heavily in growing revenues, attracting investors who value this approach.

We could go on. But the basic takeaway is this: Losing money is not a bug. It’s a feature. One might even argue that entrepreneurs in metro areas with a more fiscally restrained investment culture are missing out.

What’s also noteworthy is the propensity of so many city startups to wreak havoc on existing, profitable industries without generating big profits themselves. Craigslist, a San Francisco nonprofit, may have started the trend in the 1990s by blowing up the newspaper classified business. Today, Uber and Lyft have decimated the value of taxi medallions.

Not making money can be the ultimate competitive advantage, if you can afford it, as it prevents others from entering the space or catching up as your startup gobbles up greater and greater market share. Then, when rivals are out of the picture, it’s possible to raise prices and start focusing on operating in the black.

Raise money from investors who’ve done this before

You can’t lose money on your own. And you can’t lose any old money, either. To succeed as a San Francisco unicorn, it helps to lose money provided by one of a short list of prestigious investors who have previously backed valuable, unprofitable Northern California startups.

It’s not a mysterious list. Most of the names are well-known venture and seed investors who’ve been actively investing in local startups for many years and commonly feature on rankings like the Midas List. We’ve put together a few names here.

You might wonder why it’s so much better to lose money provided by Sequoia Capital than, say, a lower-profile but still wealthy investor. We could speculate that the following factors are at play: a firm’s reputation for selecting winning startups, a willingness of later investors to follow these VCs at higher valuations and these firms’ skill in shepherding portfolio companies through rapid growth cycles to an eventual exit.

Whatever the exact connection, the data speaks for itself. The vast majority of San Francisco’s most valuable private and recently public internet and technology companies have backing from investors on the short list, commonly beginning with early-stage rounds.

Pick a business model that relatives understand

Generally speaking, you don’t need to know a lot about semiconductor technology or networking infrastructure to explain what a high-valuation San Francisco company does. Instead, it’s more along the lines of: “They have an app for getting rides from strangers,” or “They have an app for renting rooms in your house to strangers.” It may sound strange at first, but pretty soon it’s something everyone seems to be doing.

It’s not a recipe that’s likely replicable without talent, drive, connections and timing. 

list of 32 San Francisco-based unicorns and near-unicorns is populated mostly with companies that have widely understood brands, including Pinterest, Instacart and Slack, along with Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. While there are some lesser-known enterprise software names, they’re not among the largest investment recipients.

Part of the consumer-facing, high brand recognition qualities of San Francisco startups may be tied to the decision to locate in an urban center. If you were planning to manufacture semiconductor components, for instance, you would probably set up headquarters in a less space-constrained suburban setting.

Reading between the lines of red ink

While it can be frustrating to watch a company lurch from quarter to quarter without a profit in sight, there is ample evidence the approach can be wildly successful over time.

Seattle’s Amazon is probably the poster child for this strategy. Jeff Bezos, recently declared the world’s richest man, led the company for more than a decade before reporting the first annual profit.

These days, San Francisco seems to be ground central for this company-building technique. While it’s certainly not necessary to locate here, it does seem to be the single urban location most closely associated with massively scalable, money-losing consumer-facing startups.

Perhaps it’s just one of those things that after a while becomes status quo. If you want to be a movie star, you go to Hollywood. And if you want to make it on Wall Street, you go to Wall Street. Likewise, if you want to make it by launching an industry-altering business with a good shot at a multi-billion-dollar valuation, all while losing eye-popping sums of money, then you go to San Francisco.

Vine co-founder halts development of its replacement, V2

There will be no “Vine 2” — at least for now. Trying to take on the giant social networks without external funding proved too tall a task for six-second video app Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann. “I’ve made the very difficult decision of postponing the V2 project for an indefinite amount of time. There are several reasons for this, including a bit of ‘sequelitis’, but I’d like to explain the biggest one, which is due to financial and legal hurdles,” Hofmann wrote on the community forums he set up for V2.

Announced in late December out of his frustration regarding how Twitter neglected and eventually shut down Vine, Hofmann had since built a creative tool startup called Byte, and is still leading a virtual reality company called Interspace, but was trying to run V2 as a self-funded personal project on the side. The plan was to launch in 2018 with an app that let you record or upload 2 to 6-second looping videos and much stronger anti-harassment safety features.

But without millions in outside investment, it was an insurmountable task to develop the app, host the videos and grow the audience. While Hofmann didn’t specify, it seems Twitter wasn’t happy about him using the name V2 and an almost identical logo. “The interest has been extremely encouraging, but it has also created some roadblocks . . . The attention has also raised an issue that we might not have faced otherwise: legal fees have been overwhelming,” Hofmann wrote. We’ve asked him and Twitter if Twitter was suing or threatening legal action against Hofmann or V2.

While there’s still no ubiquitous way to share super-short videos, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube are no paltry competitors. So now, Hofmann says, “We take a step back. The code and ideas still exist, but until everything else comes together, we can’t move forward. Again, this is indefinite, which means that it could take a long time. But it’s necessary.”

You can read Hofmann’s full announcement here:

You should change your Twitter password right now

Yes, it’s that time again — password changing time. On Thursday, Twitter revealed that a bug caused the platform to store user passwords in unmasked form. Normally, sensitive personal data like passwords would be stored in hashed form using a mix of letters and numbers to protect the content of the password itself. In this instance, it sounds like Twitter stored plain text passwords openly without any hashing on an internal log.

Twitter notes that it currently has “no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s system” or that these unprotected passwords were accessed by hackers, but the risk of the unknown remains. The company has advised users to change their passwords as a precautionary measure.

Here’s what Twitter says happened:

We mask passwords through a process called hashing using a function known as bcrypt, which replaces the actual password with a random set of numbers and letters that are stored in Twitter’s system. This allows our systems to validate your account credentials without revealing your password. This is an industry standard.

Due to a bug, passwords were written to an internal log before completing the hashing process. We found this error ourselves, removed the passwords, and are implementing plans to prevent this bug from happening again.

We’ve reached out to Twitter for more details on the bug and additional information about how this could have happened. Update: Twitter declined to provide additional technical details on the incident but emphasized that is believes the likelihood that the passwords were discoverable is “extremely low” and an internal investigation has revealed no indications of a breach or other misuse.

It’s pretty unusual for a company of this size to make such a basic security mistake, but that’s just another reason for users to take password protection into their own hands. Now is the perfect time to start using two-factor authentication and a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to keep your account credentials safe even when the platforms you use fail to do so.

Twitter announces new video partnerships with NBCUniversal and ESPN

Twitter is hosting its Digital Content NewFronts tonight, where it’s unveiling 30 renewals and new content deals — the company says that’s nearly twice as many as it announced last year.

Those include partnerships with the big players in media — starting with NBCUniversal, which will be sharing live video and clips from properties including NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo.

Twitter also announced some of the shows it will be airing as part of the ESPN deal announced earlier today: SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the network’s flagship) and Fantasy Focus Live (a live stream of the fantasy sports podcast).

Plus, the company said it’s expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks and MTV News.

During the NewFronts event, Twitter’s head of video Kayvon Beykpour said daily video views on the platform have nearly doubled in the past year. And Kay Madati (pictured above), the company’s head of content partnerships, described the company as “the ultimate mobile platform where video and conversation share the same screen.”

As Twitter continues to invest in video content, it’s been emphasizing its advantage in live video, a theme that continued in this year’s announcement.

“Twitter is the only place where conversation is tied to video and the biggest live moments, giving brands the unique ability to connect with leaned in consumers who are shaping culture,” said Twitter Global VP of Revenue and Content Partnerships Matthew Derella in a statement. “That’s our superpower.”

During the event, Derella also (implicitly) contrasted Twitter with other digital platforms that have struggled with questions about transparency and whether ads are running in an appropriate environment. Tonight, he said marketers could say goodbye to unsafe brand environments and a lack of transparency: “And we say hello to you being in control of where your video aligns … we say hello to a higher measure of transparency, we say hello to new premium inventory and a break from the same old choices.”

On top of all the new content, Twitter is also announcing new ad programs. There are Creator Originals, a set of scripted series from influencers who will be paired up with sponsored brands. (The program is powered by Niche, the influencer marketing startup that Twitter acquired a few years ago.) And there’s a new Live Brand Studio — as the name suggests, it’s a team that works with marketers to create live video.

AM to DM

Here are some other highlights from the content announcements:

  • CELEBrate, a series where people get heartwarming messages from their idols from Ellen Digital Studios.
  • Delish Food Day and IRL from Hearst Magazines Digital Media.
  • Power Star Live, which is “inspired by the cultural phenomenon of Black Twitter” and live streamed from the Atlanta University Center, from Will Packer Media.
  • BuzzFeed News is renewing AM to DM until the end of 2018.
  • Vice News is launching a new series called The New Space Race.
  • Pattern, a new brand focused on weather- and science-related news.
  • #HereWeAre programming from the Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon/Oath), History, Vox and BuzzFeed News that highlights women around the world.
  • The Call of Duty World League will air highlights and Championship Sunday for the rest of the season.

Developing

Twitter also sold data access to Cambridge Analytica researcher

Since it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the personal data of millions of Facebook users, one question has lingered in the minds of the public: What other data did Dr. Aleksandr Kogan gain access to?

Twitter confirmed to The Telegraph on Saturday that GSR, Kogan’s own commercial enterprise, had purchased one-time API access to a random sample of public tweets from a five-month period between December 2014 and April 2015. Twitter told Bloomberg that, following an internal review, the company did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter.

Twitter sells API access to large organizations or enterprises for the purposes of surveying sentiment or opinion during various events, or around certain topics or ideas.

Here’s what a Twitter spokesperson said to The Telegraph:

Twitter has also made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica. This decision is based on our determination that Cambridge Analytica operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Cambridge Analytica may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.

Obviously, this doesn’t have the same scope as the data harvested about users on Facebook. Twitter’s data on users is far less personal. Location on the platform is opt-in and generic at that, and users are not forced to use their real name on the platform.

Still, it shows just how broad the Cambridge Analytica data collection was ahead of the 2016 election.

We reached out to Twitter and will update when we hear back.

Looks like Google is changing Android’s gun emoji into a water gun

Back in 2016, Apple swapped out the graphic used for its gun emoji, replacing the realistically drawn handgun with a bright green water gun.

Just a few days ago, Twitter followed suit.

And now, it seems, so will Google . The gun emoji on Android will likely soon appear as a bright orange and yellow super soaker lookalike.

As first noted by Emojipedia, Google has just swapped the graphics in its open Noto Emoji library on GitHub. These are the Emoji that Android uses by default, so the same change will presumably start to roll out there before too long.

At this point, Google making this change seemed inevitable. It seemed likely to happen as soon Apple made the jump; once others started following suit (Twitter earlier this week, and Samsung with the release of the Galaxy S9) it became a certainty.

It’s a matter of clarity in communication. If a massive chunk of people (iOS users) can send a cartoony water toy in a message that another massive chunk of people (Android users) receive as a realistically drawn handgun, there’s room for all sorts of trouble and confusion. Apple wasn’t going to reverse course on this one — and now that others have made the change, Google would’ve been the odd one out.

Twitter banned Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab from buying ads

The U.S. government isn’t the only one feeling skittish about Kaspersky Lab. On Friday, the Russian security firm’s founder Eugene Kaspersky confronted Twitter’s apparent ban on advertising from the company, a decision it quietly issued in January.

“In a short letter from an unnamed Twitter employee, we were told that our company ‘operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices,'” Kaspersky wrote.

“One thing I can say for sure is this: we haven’t violated any written – or unwritten – rules, and our business model is quite simply the same template business model that’s used throughout the whole cybersecurity industry: We provide users with products and services, and they pay us for them.”

He noted that the company has spent around than €75,000 ($93,000 USD) to promote its content on Twitter in 2017.

Kaspersky called for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to specify the motivation behind the ban after failing to respond to an official February 6 letter from his company.

More than two months have passed since then, and the only reply we received from Twitter was the copy of the same boilerplate text. Accordingly, I’m forced to rely on another (less subtle but nevertheless oft and loudly declared) principle of Twitter’s – speaking truth to power – to share details of the matter with interested users and to publicly ask that you, dear Twitter executives, kindly be specific as to the reasoning behind this ban; fully explain the decision to switch off our advertising capability, and to reveal what other cybersecurity companies need to do in order to avoid similar situations.

In a statement about the incident, Twitter reiterated that Kaspersky Lab’s business model “inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices.” In a statement to CyberScoop, Twitter pointed to the late 2017 Department of Homeland Security directive to eliminate Kaspersky software from Executive Branch systems due to the company’s relationship with Russian intelligence.

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” DHS asserted in the directive at the time.

Twitter doesn’t care that someone is building a bot army in Southeast Asia

Facebook’s lack of attention to how third parties are using its service to reach users ended up with CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking questions from Congressional committees. With that in mind, you’d think that others in the social media space might be more attentive than usual to potentially malicious actors on their platforms.

Twitter, however, is turning the other way and insisting all is normal in Southeast Asia, despite the emergence of thousands of bot-like accounts that have followed prominent users in the region en masse over the past month.

Scores of reporters and Twitter users with large followers — yours truly included — have noticed swarms of accounts with generic names, no profile photo, no bio and no tweets have followed them over the past month.

These accounts might be evidence of a new ‘bot farm’ — the creation of large numbers of accounts for sale or usage on-demand which Twitter has cracked down on — or the groundwork for more nefarious activities, it’s too early to tell.

In what appears to be the first regional Twitter bot campaign, a flood of suspicious new followers has been reported by users across Southeast Asia and beyond, including Thailand, Myanmar Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka among other places.

While it is true that the new accounts have done nothing yet, the fact that a large number of newly-created accounts have popped up out of nowhere with the aim of following the region’s most influential voices should be enough to concern Twitter. Especially since this is Southeast Asia, a region where Facebook is beset with controversies — from its role inciting ethnic hatred in Myanmar, to allegedly assisting censors in Vietnam, witnessing users jailed for violating lese majeste in Thailand, and aiding the election of controversial Philippines leader Duterte.

Then there are governments themselves. Vietnam has pledged to build a cyber army to combat “wrongful views,” while other regimes in Southeast Asia have clamped down on social media users.

Despite that, Twitter isn’t commenting.

The U.S. company issued a no comment to TechCrunch when we asked for further information about this rush of new accounts, and what action Twitter will take.

A source close to the company suggested that the sudden accumulation of new followers is “a pretty standard sign-up, or onboarding, issue” that is down to new accounts selecting to follow the suggested accounts that Twitter proposes during the new account creation process.

Twitter is more than 10 years old, and since this is the first example of this happening in Southeast Asia that explanation already seems inadequate at face value. More generally, the dismissive approach seems particularly naive. Twitter should be looking into the issue more closely, even if for now the apparent bot army isn’t being put to use yet.

Facebook is considered to be the internet by many in Southeast Asia, and the social network is considerably more popular than Twitter in the region, but there remains a cause for concern here.

“If we’ve learned anything from the Facebook scandal, it’s that what can at first seem innocuous can be leveraged to quite insidious and invasive effect down the line,” Francis Wade, who recently published a book on violence in Myanmar, told the Financial Times this week. “That makes Twitter’s casual dismissal of concerns around this all the more unsettling.”

Twitter replaces its gun emoji with a water gun

Twitter has now followed Apple’s lead in changing its pistol emoji to a harmless, bright green water gun. And in doing so, the company that has struggled to handle the abuse, hate speech and harassment taking place across its platform, has removed one of the means for online abusers to troll their victims.

The change is one of several rolling out now in Twitter’s emoji update, Twemoji 2.6, which impacts Twitter users on the web, mobile web, and on Tweetdeck.

Below: Apple’s water gun

Below: Twitter’s water gun

The decision to replace an emoji of a weapon to a child’s toy was seen as a political statement when Apple in 2016 rolled out its own water gun emoji in iOS 10. The company had also argued against the addition of a rifle emoji, ultimately leading to the Unicode’s decision to remove the gun from its list of new emoji candidates that same year.

With these moves, Apple was effectively telling people that a gun didn’t have a place in the pictorial language people commonly use when messaging on mobile devices.

These sorts of changes matter because of emoji’s ability to influence culture and its function as a globally understood form of communication. That’s why so much attention is given to those emoji updates that go beyond the cosmetic – like updates that offer better representations of human skin tones, show different types of family groupings or relationships, or those give various professions – like a police officer or a scientist – both male and female versions, for example.

In the case of the water pistol, Apple set a certain standard that others in the industry have since followed.

Samsung also later replaced its gun with a water gun, as did WhatsApp. Google, meanwhile, didn’t follow Apple’s lead saying that it believed in cross-platform communication. Many others left their realistic gun emojis alone, too, including Microsoft.

“The main problem with the different appearances of the pistol emoji has been the potential for confusion when one platform displays this as an innocuous toy, and another shows the same emoji as a weapon. This was particularly an issue in 2016 when Apple changed the pistol emoji out of step with every single other vendor at the time,” notes Jeremy Burge, Emojipedia’s founder and Vice Chair on the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. “Now we’re seeing multiple vendors all changing to a water pistol image all in a similar timeframe with Samsung and Twitter both changing their design this year,” he says.

On Twitter, however, the updated gun emoji very much comes across as a message about where the company stands (or aims to stand) on abuse and violence. A gun – as opposed to a water gun – can be far more frightening when accompanied with a threat of violence in a tweet.

The change also arrives at a time when Twitter is trying – some would say unsuccessfully – to better manage the bad behavior that takes place on its platform. Most recently, it decided to publicize its rules around abuse to see if people would then choose to follow them. It has also updated its guidelines and policies for how it would handle online abusers to mixed results.

In addition, the change feels even more like a political message than the Apple emoji update did given its timing – in the wake of Parkland, the youth-led #NeverAgain movement, the YouTube shooting, and the increased focus on the NRA’s contributions to politicians.

Twitter has confirmed the change in an email with TechCrunch, saying the decision was made for “consistency” with the others who have changed.

However, Emojipedia shows that not all companies have updated to the water gun. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Messenger, LG, HTC, EmojiOne, emojidex, and Mozilla still offer a realistic pistol, not the green toy.

But Apple and Samsung perhaps hold more weight when it comes to where things are headed.

“I know some users object to what they see as censorship on their emoji keyboard, but I can certainly see why companies today might want to ensure that they aren’t showing a weapon where iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users now have a toy gun,” Burge says. “It’s pretty much the opposite to the issue with Apple being out of step with other vendors in 2016.”

 

The gun was the most notable change in Twemoji 2.6, but Emojipedia notes that other emoji have been updated as well, including the kitchen knife (which now looks like more of a vegetable slicer than a weapon for stabbing), the Crystal Ball, the Alembic (a glass vessel with water), and the Magnifying Glass, with more minor tweaks to the Coat, Eyes, and emoji faces with horns.

Image credits: Emojipedia; Apple Water Gun: Apple