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The Meaning Behind That Strange New Speech Bubble Emoji

Published On 10/22/2015 Published On 10/22/2015

At some point while maniacally using the dozens of new emoji released for your iPhone yesterday, you may have been left scratching your head over a particularly strange character that looks like a speech bubble with an eye in it. Unlike the new middle finger or taco emoji, there was seemingly no clear explanation as to what the mysterious symbol means or what purpose it serves -- until now.

As Wired reports, the inclusion of the new emoji in iOS 9 is actually Apple's way of showing support for "I Am A Witness," a digital anti-bullying campaign launched Thursday by the Ad Council. Specifically, the campaign urges those who witness bullying to speak up and send victims kind messages along with using the emoji character. 

“It’s a powerful symbol,” said Hanna Wittmark, art director at Silverstein & Partners Goodby, the ad agency behind the original eye-in-a-speech-bubble symbol. “It says ‘I see this, and I’m speaking up. I’m doing something about it.'”

Months ahead of the release of iOS 9.1, the firm approached Apple to see if it would include the symbol among the over 150 new emoji added to the iPhone's keyboard. To make it happen in time, Apple had to fast-track the design by combining two existing emoji -- the eye and the left speech bubble -- into what ultimately appears on the emoji keyboard today, according to the report. Along with using the version built into the iPhone keyboard, the campaign is also encouraging people to download its custom emoji packages containing additional images and messages. 

You could also try sending someone the hugging face and burrito emoji, because hugs and burritos make everything better.

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and his use of the new middle finger emoji is out of control. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.

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