Apple says it is working to bring more racial diversity to its popular set of cartoon icons known as emoji.
The tech company hopes to update its emoji icons so they are inclusive of more people, Apple said in a response to an email sent from MTV to chief executive Tim Cook.
"There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard," said Katie Cotton, Apple's vice-president of worldwide corporate communications, according to MTV.
Apple explained that its emoji icons are based on the Unicode standard, which is used by many types of programs, apps and platforms to display text and icons the same as one another.
But because Unicode is in the hands of a consortium and not solely in Apple's control, the company can't simply issue an update. Instead, the Unicode Consortium must first accept any changes to the Unicode standard.
Emoji have become extremely popular among users, who include them in text messages, Instagram comments and tweets. There are icons for food, vehicles, animals, and people. There are several characters, but most are white and none are black.
MTV said it decided to email Apple about the diversity in its emoji after actor Tahj Mowry sent the following tweet:
It makes me mad that there are no black emojis...— Tahj Mowry (@Tahj_Mowry) March 16, 2014
But Mowry is not the first person to complain about the lack of diversity. Numerous online petitions exist that call on Apple and others to add diversity to their emoji icons, and Miley Cyrus tweeted about the issue more than a year ago:
RT if you think there needs to be an #emojiethnicityupdate— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) December 19, 2012
Los Angeles Times