Apple's iPhone and iPad emojis, which now include what many interpret as same-sex couples, are being investigated by Russian authorities for a possible violation of the nationwide ban on "homosexual propaganda."
According to Quartz
, an attorney in the Kirov region, Yaroslav Mikhailov, first launched a lawsuit in August, and local news site Gazeta.ru reports that police have now opened an investigation.
Apple has not specified whether its emojis featuring two men and two women holding hands are homosexual lovers, heterosexual friends, or something else. In the U.S., the emojis are widely interpreted as depicting gay couples. In addition to the same-sex, holding-hands emojis, Apple also includes what many have interpreted as families headed by gay couples.
If found violating the law, which bans, "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors," Apple could face fines of 800,000 to 1 million rubles ($12,200-15,250) and a three-month suspension across the country, The Independent (UK) reported
Russia's anti-gay legislation, introduced in 2013, has been used to detain, arrest, and jail peaceful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the country, and has received widespread criticism in the West.
Mikhailov has previously made headlines for goading police into investigating a journalist he disliked who posted an Instagram photo of herself dressed as an Orthodox priest.
Notably, St. Petersburg city council member Vitaly Milonov last year advocated for banning Apple CEO Tim Cook from Russia because he is openly gay.
Russian lawmakers have also in the past criticized the Eurovision Song Contest, Lady Gaga, and Game of Thrones for associated gay themes, or perceived connections to gay themes.
Russian leaders are frequently photographed using Apple products, however many of them decry the world's most valuable company as a symbol of Western power.
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