WhatsApp has been facing legal trouble all over the world recently, mostly in relation to sharing data with parent company Facebook. An Indian lawyer named Gurmeet Singh is now attempting to make things worse for the app by trying to get it to remove the middle finger emoji.
The middle finger emoji has been around for years at this point, so it’s not clear why Singh suddenly felt the need to get it banned. It’s not even exclusive to WhatsApp since it can be found across iOS and Android keyboards, not to mention its official presence in the Unicode Consortium, the organization that makes emoji.
Scrubbing out the middle finger emoji completely would thus require a lot of time and effort on Singh’s part. He’s just concentrating on WhatsApp for now, sending the company a legal notice asking it to remove the emoticon within 15 days.
As per IANS, Singh says that showing the middle finger is an offensive, belligerent, invasive, obscene, and lewd gesture. He cites the Indian Penal Code Sections 354 and 509 in his attack, stating that it’s an offence to show obscene, lewd, and offensive gestures to females.
This doesn’t make a lot of sense since the middle finger emoji isn’t being used exclusively to offend women. It’s a joke among friends at best, an insult at worst. No one has come forward in the time since it was introduced to say they felt offended when it was sent to them.
Singh is on shaky ground here, but he tries to shore himself up by pointing to an Irish law which dictates that showing the middle finger is an offence. India isn’t Ireland, so there’s no reason why we should be borrowing their rules regarding illegal gestures.
The lawyer concludes his argument by stating that WhatsApp is directly abetting the use of an offensive, lewd, and obscene gesture. If the company doesn’t get rid of the middle finger emoji, he’s planning to file civil or criminal cases against it. Here’s hoping it comes up with an appropriate response.