Emojis of #BlackLivesMatter

Emojis of #BlackLivesMatter

Following the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests against racism and police brutality, Emojipedia experienced a signification increase in lookups of the โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist with Dark Skin Tone emoji.

Emulating the historic gesture of support and solidarity, this emoji has a long-standing association with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Emojipedia has conducted an analysis of the raised fist emoji along with related emojis and hashtags, to better understand the response to this trajedy and the ensuing conversation online.

๐Ÿ”โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Emojis of #BlackLivesMatter

To conduct this analysis we collected a sample of 278,244 tweets that included "Black Lives Matter" and "BLM" either as a hashtag or as a text string.

These tweets were collected between on 4th and 5th of June 2020 and, upon investigation, 11.79% of this sample (32,814 tweets) featured at least one emoji[1].


Above: the top ten most frequently used emojis on our sample of 278,244 Black Lives Matter tweets.

  1. โœŠ Raised Fist
  2. ๐Ÿ˜ญ Loudly Crying Face
  3. ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart
  4. โค๏ธ Red Heart
  5. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Face with Tears of Joy
  6. ๐Ÿ™ Folded Hands
  7. ๐Ÿฅบ Pleading Face
  8. ๐Ÿ‘ Clapping Hands
  9. ๐Ÿคฃ Rolling on the Floor Laughing
  10. ๐Ÿ’œ Purple Heart

Across these ten emojis we see clear themes of solidarity, support, and sadness.

The โœŠ Raised Fist emoji was the most popular emoji used. This data combines all skin tone variations for any relevant emoji into a single entry, why may explain the considerably higher usage numbers for this emoji.[2] Read on for details of the breakdown of skin tone usage for this emoji.

The second most common emoji, ๐Ÿ˜ญ Loudly Crying Face, appears less than half as often in these tweets as any raised fist.

๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart can be used as a symbol of solidarity and support for and amongst black communities. โค๏ธ Red Heart and ๐Ÿ’œ Purple Heart compound this expression of support.

The presence of ๐Ÿ˜‚ Face with Tears of Joy and ๐Ÿคฃ Rolling on the Floor Laughing may at first appear odd, but these two emojis are well-documented as being amongst the most popular on the platform, and are commonly found across almost any sample of tweets, due to their considerable popularity.

๐Ÿ™ Folded Hands is often used alongside expressions of hope and longing, and also recently saw an increase in use correlated with the spread of coronavirus.

The skin tone variations that make up the use of โœŠ Raised Fist within #BlackLivesMatter tweets shows the darkest two skin tones making up the majority of use (52% combined).


Above: Use of each skin tone variant of the โœŠ Raised Fist emoji within Black Lives Matter tweets.

In descending popularity within the Black Lives Matter sample of tweets:

  1. โœŠ๐Ÿพ Raised Fist: Medium-Dark Skin Tone
  2. โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist: Dark Skin Tone
  3. โœŠ๐Ÿฝ Raised Fist: Medium Skin Tone
  4. โœŠ๐Ÿผ Raised Fist: Medium-Light Skin Tone
  5. โœŠ๐Ÿป Raised Fist: Light Skin Tone
  6. โœŠ Raised Fist (no skin tone modifier applied)

When compared to a general tweet sample, the difference is notable. In a general sample of 13 million tweets, 18,408 included at least one โœŠ Raised Fist emoji, with 71% being the neutral yellow version, which appears when no skin tone is specified.


Above: โœŠ Raised Fist use on Twitter, for a general sample of tweets.

This general sample uses tweets collected by Emojipedia between the 18th and 24th of May 2020.

The difference between the Black Lives Matter sample and the general sample is considerable, indicating the value of emoji skin tone modifiers in self-expression and representation in digital communications.

๐Ÿ“ธ Emoji Increases

In a further analysis we investigated which emojis saw a significant jump in popularity within the Black Lives Matter sample compared to a general sample of tweets.

Any emojis which did not experience at least 1,000 usage instances[3] within this general sample have been excluded.


Above: a table displaying emojis which saw the largest increase in relative popularity in our Black Lives Matter sample of tweets.

  1. โฌ‡๏ธ Down Arrow
  2. ๐Ÿ“ธ Camera with Flash
  3. ๐Ÿ–• Middle Finger
  4. ๐Ÿšจ Police Car Light
  5. ๐Ÿ“ท Camera
  6. โš ๏ธ Warning
  7. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Flag: United States
  8. ๐Ÿคฌ Face with Symbols on Mouth
  9. ๐Ÿ‘† Backhand Index Pointing Up
  10. ๐Ÿ’… Nail Polish

The increase in use of โฌ‡๏ธ Down Arrow emoji appears due to information sharing on Twitter. The arrow pointing downwards commonly seen pointing to additional content such as an image, a video or a link to another website. ๐Ÿ‘† Backhand Index Pointing Up performs a similar function for content in a previous tweet or within the tweet itself.

The presence of both ๐Ÿ“ธ Camera with Flash and ๐Ÿ“ท Camera indicate the sharing of footage from the protests on Twitter, or an encouragement to protesters to film their experience.

๐Ÿšจ Police Car Light and โš ๏ธ Warning emojis are often used when sharing messages of alert or caution, while the increase in use of both the ๐Ÿ–• Middle Finger and ๐Ÿคฌ Face with Symbols on Mouth are clearly evidence of frustration and anger.

๐Ÿ“ˆ Public Sentiment

Recent polling from Civiqs shows a considerable increase in support of Black Lives Matter from US voters.

This is notable, and should be reflected in our conversations on Twitter.

Above: US Voter Support for Black Lives Matter. Source: Civiqs image via The New York Times.

To understand the context of this increased support, we investigated which words and emojis are commonly used in tweets that include โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist: Dark Skin Tone, ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart and the various ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emojis.

This sample contained a total of 76,561,213 tweets from across the globe.

Trends: โœŠ๐Ÿพ and โœŠ๐Ÿฟ:

Use of โœŠ๐Ÿพ Raised Fist: Medium-Dark Skin Tone and โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist: Dark Skin Tone began to rapidly increase around the 29th of May, the date on which a third degree murder charge was initially filed against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Both then peaked in use on the 2nd of June, the day after two separate autopsies ruled that George Floydโ€™s death was a homicide.


Above: Use of the raised fist emojis with dark skin tones increased considerably on Twitter in late-May to early June 2020.

In tweets that include โœŠ๐Ÿพ or โœŠ๐Ÿฟ, the most common words all relate directly to Black Lives Matter.

Words and phrases that stand out include Justice For George Floyd, No Justice No Peace, Breonna Taylor, and love.


Above: Word Cloud of the terms most associated with โœŠ๐Ÿพ and โœŠ๐Ÿฟ within a sample collected on the 4th and 5th of June 2020.

On average, tweets that include โœŠ๐Ÿพ or โœŠ๐Ÿฟ also include one or more of the following emojis:

  1. โœŠ๐Ÿฝ Raised Fist: Medium Skin Tone
  2. โœŠ๐Ÿผ Raised Fist: Medium-Light Skin Tone
  3. โœŠ๐Ÿป Raised Fist: Light Skin Tone
  4. ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart
  5. โค๏ธ Red Heart
  6. ๐Ÿ’ฏ Hundred Points
  7. ๐Ÿ”ฅ Fire
  8. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ Folded Hands: Medium-Dark Skin Tone
  9. โ€ผ๏ธ Double Exclamation Mark
  10. ๐Ÿ˜ญ Loudly Crying Face

Above: Emojis most commonly found in tweets including โœŠ๐Ÿพ Raised Fist: Medium-Dark Skin Tone or โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist: Dark Skin Tone.

As with the โœŠ๐Ÿพ and โœŠ๐Ÿฟ, use of ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart peaked on the 2nd of June. The change in use of this emoji is not as pronounced as the raised fists.


Above: ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart emoji use on Twitter between the 1st May 2020 and the 8th June 2020.

It's worth noting that regular use of the black heart (as seen in early May) is similar to the peak of the black or brown fist in early June. Twitter is a large platform, and many tweets are sent daily with this emoji that have no relevance to Black Lives Matter.

Having said that, the most commonly found phrase in tweets using the ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart emoji on the 4th and 5th of June 2020 is Black Lives Matter.


Above: Terms most associated with the ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart emoji within a sample collected on the 4th and 5th of June 2020.

Emojis commonly found within this ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart tweet sample are:

  1. โค๏ธ Red Heart
  2. โœŠ๐Ÿพ Raised Fist: Medium-Dark Skin Tone
  3. โœจ Sparkles
  4. โœŠ๐Ÿฝ Raised Fist: Medium Skin Tone
  5. ๐Ÿ’™ Blue Heart
  6. โœŠ๐Ÿฟ Raised Fist: Dark Skin Tone
  7. ๐Ÿ’š Green Heart
  8. ๐Ÿ’œ Purple Heart
  9. ๐Ÿ’› Yellow Heart
  10. ๐ŸŒˆ Rainbow

The presence of the other heart emojis such as the โค๏ธ Red Heart and ๐Ÿ’™ Blue Heart alongside the ๐Ÿ–ค Black Heart is an expected finding.

Heart emojis, like other shape emojis, are often used in colourful combination for aesthetic purposes including the celebration of LGBTQ identity. June is LGBTQ Pride month in the United States in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, at which the black transgender woman Marsha P. Johnson played a key role.

Notably, the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emoji - or any of its gender and skin tone variations - wasn't common within #BlackLivesMatter tweets.

Given the nature of protests, and ensuing police violence, the absense of this emoji within online discussion seemed curious.

Although use of ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emojis did jump on the 25th of May, the day of George Floydโ€™s death, this increase was not outside the normal range of usage experienced by these emojis over the last month.


Above: Use of the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emojis on Twitter between in May and June 2020.

Phrases used in conjunction with the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emojis on the 4th and 5th of June 2020 included George, Black Lives Matter, fuck, cops, and Murdered.


Above: Terms most associated with the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emojis.

It's not that the number of uses of the police officer emojis increased in this period, but the conversation around these emojis did change to become primarily about Black Lives Matter.

The top ten other emojis found in tweets within the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer tweet sample were:

  1. ๐Ÿ‘‡ Backhand Index Pointing Down
  2. ๐Ÿš“ Police Car
  3. ๐Ÿ‘ข Womanโ€™s Boot
  4. ๐Ÿ‘€ Eyes
  5. ๐Ÿš” Oncoming Police Car
  6. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Flag: United States
  7. ๐Ÿšจ Police Car Light
  8. ๐Ÿ–• Middle Finger
  9. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Face with Tears of Joy
  10. โœŠ๐Ÿพ Raised Fist: Medium-Dark Skin Tone

Academic research has previously found that emojis are predominately used in positive emotional contexts. This may explain the higher use of emojis which support a cause such as Black Lives Matter (โœŠ๐Ÿฟ, ๐Ÿ–ค) more than emojis which may be perceived as the enemies of a cause (๐Ÿ‘ฎ, ๐Ÿš“).

Also worth noting is the fact that major vendors display police officer emojis smiling. The exact level of positivity varies by vendor, with most falling in the neutral-positive range.

Having a relaxed and smiling face makes sense for most human emojis, and while this consistently applied for all emoji professions (eg ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿš€ Astronaut, ๐Ÿง‘โ€โš–๏ธ Judge, or ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐ŸŽค Singer), it may make the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emoji less useful in conversations about police racism and violence.

Above: Appearance of the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emoji as it appears on different apps and operating systems. Image: Vendors / Emojipedia composite.

  1. This is considerably lower than our recently detected figure from a general sample in April 2020 (19.04%). These figures echo academic research that finds emojis are mainly used in positive contexts. Therefore a topics such as police brutality and racism would be expected to feature fewer emojis. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  2. A common pattern in #BlackLivesMatter tweets shows all fist variations โœŠ๐ŸฟโœŠ๐ŸพโœŠ๐ŸฝโœŠ๐ŸผโœŠ๐Ÿป. This seems to be generally intended as a show of solidarity more than an attempt to subvert #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter - though a deeper analysis would be required to determine to what extent this is the case. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  3. This was done to avoid mapping relative variations in use of extremely uncommon emojis, where an increase from 10 uses to 30 uses would be an increase of 200% despite being a small jump in actual usage. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ