Context is an important thing, where what might be considered offensive to some might not be considered offensive to someone else. For example if you were to call your friend a name jokingly, you guys might laugh it off, but say it to a complete stranger and it’s suddenly a very different story.

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The same could be said about emojis, where sending a close group of friends the middle finger emoji could be seen as a joke, but unfortunately not everyone’s laughing. Over in India, WhatsApp has been served a legal notice by a local lawyer over the middle finger emoji. The lawyer claims that the emoji is an obscene and lewd gesture, and apparently falls under India’s law regarding “obscene, lewd, offensive gestures”.

The lawyer, Gurmeet Singh, in his notice to WhatsApp reads, “As per the Indian Penal Code Sections 354 and 509, it is an offence to show obscene, lewd, offensive gestures to females. Use of a lewd, offensive, obscene gesture by anyone is hereby illegal also as aforesaid. As per section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 showing of the middle finger is also an offence in Ireland.”

He adds, “By offering to use middle finger emoji in your app, you (WhatsApp) are directly abetting the use of offensive, lewd, obscene gesture.” To that end, Singh is asking that WhatsApp remove the emoji within the next 15 days from the date they receive the notice, otherwise he will be filing civil or even criminal cases against the company. WhatsApp has yet to comment on the notice.

Filed in General. Read more about Apps, Legal and Whatsapp.

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