On the surface this ruling may seem silly. The smiley pictogram is internationally popular precisely because it’s simple for most people to understand, or so it seems superficially. One of the messages in question was supported with victory signs, champagne, a quilt of symbols that’s barely translatable but clearly positive. In fact, however, emoji in a legal context is very serious business.
Language interpretation is rarely simple upon close examination and lawyers can argue anything. Pictures give them a lot of room to do so.
Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman searched for 2016 cases in the US that dealt with emojis and emoticon and found about 80 judicial opinions that mentioned these.
He told The Recorder in May that he imagines that emoji interpretation issues will only get more common and could get very difficult. The images look different to each of us, and parties can have legitimately different understandings of an image used in an exchange.
How Emojis Have Invaded the Courtroom
In 2019, dozens of emojis showed up in legal cases. Here’s a look at the different ways they’ve been used.