AAAI Publications, Twelfth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

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Self-Representation on Twitter Using Emoji Skin Color Modifiers
Alexander Robertson, Walid Magdy, Sharon Goldwater

Last modified: 2018-06-15


Since 2015, it has been possible to modify certain emoji with a skin tone. The five different skin tones were introduced with the aim of representing more human diversity, but some commentators feared they might be used as a way to negatively represent other users/groups. This paper presents a quantitative analysis of the use of skin tone modifiers on emoji on Twitter, showing that users with darker-skinned profile photos employ them more often than users with lighter-skinned profile photos, and the vast majority of skin tone usage matches the color of a user’s profile photo—i.e., tones represent the self, rather than the other. In the few cases where users do use opposite-toned emoji, we find no evidence of negative racial sentiment. Thus, the introduction of skin tones seems to have met the goal of better representing human diversity.


emoji; social media; identity; skin color; demographics

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