Twitter Launches Pro-Democracy Emoji for ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ in Asia

Twitter Launches Pro-Democracy Emoji for ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ in Asia
Smoke rises from tires set alight by anti-coup protesters on April 03, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. (Photo: Getty Images, Getty Images)

Twitter launched a new emoji early Thursday that will appear anytime a user tweets the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance. The so-called Milk Tea Alliance refers to the pro-democracy movement in Asia that has been organised, at least in part, through actions online.

“To celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance we designed an emoji featuring 3 different types of milk tea colours from regions where the Alliance first formed online,” the social media company tweeted from its account dedicated to public policy.

The Milk Tea Alliance includes Hong Kong, where activists are fighting for the preservation of some autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party; Myanmar, where a military coup in February ousted the democratically elected government; Taiwan, a country whose sovereignty comes under constant threat from Beijing; and Thailand, where the monarchy is further restricting civil rights.

“We have seen more than 11 million Tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year. Conversations peaked when it first appeared in April 2020, and again in February 2021 when the coup took place in Myanmar,” Twitter continued.

Security forces in Myanmar have killed over 600 civilians since the military coup earlier this year, including 11 people on Wednesday alone, according to the latest reports. At least 40 children have been killed by the junta, based on reporting by the New York Times, with one child as young as 10 slain by the brutal regime.

In its announcement, Twitter also pointed to other emojis developed to support social change, including emojis for the hashtags #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Halfway through its tweet thread about the new emoji, Twitter more explicitly called for internet access to be maintained in places experiencing civil unrest and brutal government crackdowns.

“During times of civil unrests or violent crackdowns, it is more important than ever for the public to have access to the #OpenInternet for real-time updates, credible information, and essential services. #KeepitOn,” Twitter tweeted.

One of the first things the military regime did after taking control of Myanmar in February was shut off Facebook in the country. And social media access has been highly disrupted ever since.

“Twitter recognises that the #OpenInternet is increasingly under threat around the world. We strongly believe that having access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential right and remain a staunch defender and advocate of free expression and condemn #InternetShutdowns,” Twitter continued.