President-elect Donald Trump held a much-publicized meeting with prominent Silicon Valley tech leaders today, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and others. Notably absent from that list is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey or any other personnel from the social media company, despite the fact that Trump has used his Twitter account as one of his primary communication channels with the public throughout his campaign and in the weeks since the election.
The explanation, according to a source speaking to Politico, may be vindictive—the source alleges that the Trump team didn’t invite Twitter because the social networking service refused to implement a custom “#CrookedHillary” emoji created by the campaign. Trump used this epithet to refer to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign, an approach he also took with Republican primary challengers like Senators Ted Cruz (“Lyin’ Ted”) and Marco Rubio (“Little Marco”).
For its part, the Trump camp claims that Twitter was excluded from the meeting because of its size—the company’s market cap is about $13.85 billion, and the smallest company represented was Tesla (market cap $31.92 billion).
While the Unicode Consortium is primarily responsible for creating the emoji that most people use day-to-day, platforms like Twitter are free to create their own. Twitter’s specific custom emoji are called “hashflags,” and they’re used to automatically display custom emoji after specific hashtags on Twitter’s site and in first-party apps.
To date, the majority of these “hashflags” have been broadly apolitical and used mostly for brands (#FindingDory, #ShareACoke) or major events (#Wimbledon, #PopeInUS). At their most political, they’ve been used to represent broad movements (#Pride2015, #LoveIsLove) or particular elections (#USElections2016), but they’ve never been used to refer to specific candidates. Twitter has created many of these emoji of its own volition, though major companies have also paid to have them created for use in ad campaigns.
A November 18 Medium post from the Trump campaign’s digital advertising director Gary Coby at least confirms that conversations took place between Twitter and the Trump campaign about a #CrookedHillary emoji, among others. Coby alleges that he had multiple conversations with Twitter’s legal and sales teams, but that Dorsey himself was ultimately responsible for canceling the Trump team’s proposed emoji deal. We’ve contacted Twitter for comment and will update if we receive a response.