Emojis in Litigation
Yes, this blog is about emojis. The adorable and cute smiley faces that you send to your friends and family to describe your emotions. If you still do not know what I am referring to, that is OK. Frankly, they are difficult to describe. According to Merriam-Webster, an emoji is “any various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, email, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.” Essentially, emojis are simply symbols that help you communicate with others in a different manner than conventional words.
Although emojis may be a fun way to communicate with others, they have now become more common throughout the litigation process. This should not come as a major surprise. Emojis basically created an entirely different language to be interpreted, which can lead to a variety of issues. According to emojipedia.org, “there are 3,633 emojis in the Unicode Standard, as of September of 2021.” That is a lot of ways to describe emotions, especially when you consider the fact that some emojis may possess more than one meaning.
For instance, an emoji can mean two or more different things at the same time. Thus, an emoji can easily mean one thing for the sender and possess a totally different meaning for the recipient. Obviously, this could create complexities in litigation. These complexities can range from, for example, understanding motive to determining intent. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that emojis have thrown a wrinkle into the court system.
As emojis are now commonplace in electronic communications, there is no sense that their use in the future will diminish. For example, an article on The Verge states “[b]etween 2004 and 2019, there was an exponential rise in emoji and emoticon references in US court opinions, with over 30 percent of all cases appearing in 2018, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, who has been tracking all of the references to ‘emoji’ and ‘emoticon’ that show up in US court opinions.” As such, the frequency of emojis appearing in litigation will likely continue to increase and could potentially result in additional issues.
At the end of the day, it is important to understand emoji use is not completely harmless. Emojis may create uncertainty, which may lead to a variety of issues. The ambiguity in the small images may lead to confusion and ultimately create difficulties for courts, lawyers and all parties involved.