Twitter launches ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ emoji as pro-democracy movement grows


Social media giant Twitter on Thursday launched an emoji for the Milk Tea Alliance, a global movement for online democracy that has united anti-Beijing activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan with protesters in Thailand, Myanmar and beyond.

Activists praised the announcement of the emoji – a white mug on a three-color background depicting different shades of milk tea in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan – on the movement’s first anniversary.

The Milk Tea Alliance grew out of a Twitter war that erupted after Chinese nationalists accused a young Thai actor and his girlfriend of supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan independence.

It takes its name from a shared passion for sweet tea drinks in all three locations.

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Use of the hashtag peaked again in February after the military coup in Myanmar, where protesters using the hashtag rallied regional support.

“We have seen over 11 million Tweets with the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance over the past year,” Twitter said in an ad that placed the hashtag among the top trending in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Thursday.

Previously, Twitter launched emojis for the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements.

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The Twitter emoji has shown global recognition and brought greater credibility to the youth movement, said prominent Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, one of the alliance’s main voices.

“This is important because it shows young people fighting for democracy that the world is with them and that they are having an impact,” Netiwit told Reuters. “It’s a sign that online activism can go much further.”

Twitter is blocked in China and its apparent endorsement of a movement with a strong current of opposition in Beijing should not hurt its activities, said James Buchanan, a professor at Mahidol University International College in Bangkok.

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“Twitter has a lot to gain by attracting young people to Asian markets open to them,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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