Microsoft Teams begins testing support for custom emoji

Microsoft has begun internally testing a new custom emoji feature for its Microsoft Teams communications platform. Multiple sources say the edge Microsoft employees learned about the surprising new capability after animated emojis of Pepe the Frog — a meme with a troubled past — started appearing in reactions and messages on early internal versions of Microsoft Teams.

Pepe the Frog emotes, which are now widely used in Discord servers and on Amazon's Twitch streaming platform as fun responses, have appeared, along with other custom emojis that aren't shipping in Microsoft Teams at the moment. We're told that Microsoft is testing a custom emoji feature in early so-called “beta food” versions of Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams currently supports GIFs through the Giphy service, but they are separate from the emoji panel that appears within video calls and chat messages on the service. If Microsoft decides to roll out this custom emoji feature to all Teams users, it doesn't mean that Pepe the Frog memes will ship by default, just the ability to add custom emojis. It will be up to IT admins to approve and allow new custom emojis – just like how Discord and Slack admins manage this.

Microsoft Teams currently only supports official Unicode codes.
Screenshot by Tom Warren/The Verge

The addition of Pepe the Frog to internal versions of Microsoft Teams surprised some employees due to the charged history of this particular meme. While Pepe the Frog is widely used these days in innocence, the cartoon frog has also been co-opted by white supremacists for years. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) added Pepe the Frog to it Hate Symbol Database in 2016, but the advocacy group has since teamed up with Pepe creator Matt Furie to support the “#SavePepe campaign to take back the symbol from those who use it with hateful intent.”

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Pepe as a hate symbol is now used less commonly than the reaction symbol in Twitch chats. “Because many Pepe the Frog memes are not inherently bigoted, it is important to examine the use of the meme only in context,” the Anti-Defamation League says. “Just because a Pepe meme is posted does not mean someone is racist or white supremacist.” Pepe's life, death and resurrection are explored in the documentary Feels good, man.

Pepe the Frog was a symbol of resistance for Hong Kong protesters in 2019.

Microsoft has yet to officially announce custom emojis for Microsoft Teams, and the feature is still there very Early testing. Microsoft has acknowledged the existence of the much-requested feature Added to the backlog One of the new additions seven months ago. Since custom emojis have been around for years in competing platforms like Slack and Discord, they'll likely hit all Microsoft Teams users at some point this year.

We reached out to Microsoft for comment, but the company did not respond in time for publication.

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