In betas of iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1, Apple added a mysterious emoji symbol consisting of an eye inside of a speech bubble. At the time, it was not clear what purpose the mystery emoji served, but as Wired points out, it’s Apple’s way of supporting an anti-bullying campaign launched today by the Ad Council.
The “I Am A Witness” digital anti-bullying campaign aims to empower teenagers to speak up whenever they see bullying, with the emoji Apple implemented serving as a way to show support for someone who is being bullied.
Two designers at ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Angie Elko and Patrick Knowlton, came up with the eye-in-a-speech bubble symbol, and then the ad agency approached Apple to add it as an emoji to the Apple Keyboard. According to Goodby art director Hanna Wittmark, Apple was a fan of the symbol.
“When we first asked about bringing this emoji to the official Apple keyboard, they told us it would take at least a year or two to get it through and approved under Unicode,” says Wittmark. The company found a way to fast-track it, she says, by combining two existing emoji.
To create the new anti-bullying emoji, Apple combined the eye emoji with the left speech bubble emoji using what’s called a Zero Width Joiner, described on Emojipedia as a unicode character that’s able to join two or more characters together. It’s also used in emoji like the family, combining Man, Woman, Girl, and Boy emoji to create a single character emoji.
Image via Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia
The emoji is a key symbol in the campaign and is available on iPhones running iOS 9.1 and Macs running OS X 10.11.1. The dedicated “I Am A Witness” website asks teens to use the emoji or a specially created “I Am A Witness third-party keyboard to call out bullying.
In addition to Apple, several other tech companies are also supporting the new campaign, including Adobe, Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter, with each of these providing customized content on their respective platforms.