Emojis in Court

5 minutes

What does this “thumbs up” emoji mean to you?


 A court in Canada has decided this emoji amounts to a signed contractual agreement, resulting in a farmer paying $61,442 for not fulfilling his side of a contract.

 Navigating the world of digital communication can be a minefield. And, occasionally, this leads to court and where great legal minds are tasked with debating the meaning of a 😂 emoji.

 The judge in this case weighed up the 👍 emoji against previous contract acceptances which included text messages saying “yup”, “looks good” and “okay”. The conclusion was “thumbs up” emoji would reasonably lead someone to conclude it was an acceptance of the contract in this case.

 This is just the latest in emojis appearing in court cases and requires judges to get up to speed on the nuances of emojis and the meaning behind GIFs. As we pepper our messages with images and cartoon icons, we’ve seen emojis appear in court cases across the globe.

 In France, back in 2016, a court held that a gun emoji was a death threat image. In the US, a plaintiff alleged that the “tongue out” emoji insulted and defamed him on social media.

 More recently, the infamous ‘Wagatha Christie’ case had lawyers interpreting more than a thousand emoji-filled text messages and social media posts by Rebekah Vardy. This led to a debate in court between Rooney’s lawyer and Vardy about whether 😂 is a “laughing emoji”.

 One 2018 study on emojis found many come with ambiguous interpretations often made less clear by the surrounding text. One thing is clear, digital communication continues to pose new challenges to our legal system, and the law has some catching-up to do.

 What’s your most used emoji?

What’s the one you hate the most?