How emoji could get you thrown in jail
May 01, 2019
It looks like emoji might land you behind bars.
The Verge reports that more than 50 court cases from the last year asked a judge to interpret the meaning behind an emoji in order to rule.
- This trend began back in 2004 where judges tried to interpret the meaning of an emoticon written as “:-).”
- Emoji have become the focus in all new court cases, according to 9to5 Mac.
For example: “In 2017, a couple in Israel was charged thousands of dollars in fees after a court ruled that their use of emoji to a landlord signaled an intent to rent his apartment. After sending an enthusiastic text confirming that they wanted the apartment, which contained a string of emoji including a champagne bottle, a squirrel, and a comet, they stopped responding to the landlord’s texts and went on to rent a different apartment.”
The courts ruled that the couple acted in bad face since the emoji were optimistic, The Verge reported.
Expert voice: Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman told The Verge that there have been a rise in these cases from 2004 to 2019. He said that nearly 30 percent of all those cases happened in 2018.
- “So far, the emoji and emoticons have rarely been important enough to sway the direction of a case, but as they become more common, the ambiguity in how emoji are displayed and what we interpret emoji to mean could become a larger issue for courts to contend with,” according to The Verge.
And this is only the beginning, according to Goldman.
- “We’re going to see emojis show up more frequently when the case involves people talking to each other,” he said.
Emoji could be used for threats, and they can be seen as evidence to understand what someone is thinking about before they committed a crime, he told The Verge.
- “That can happen in criminal law, but it can happen in contract law as well. There’s a bunch of chatter that takes place before a contract is actually formed,” he said.
Another headache: There are also some problems with multiple versions of the same emoji, according to Apple Insider. Since emoji look different on Google, Apple and other platforms, sometimes that adds a wrench into how to interpret the emoji.
- “The meaning of individual emoji, or those in groups, is also subject to interpretation by the courts, but they also present unique challenges,” according to Apple Insider. “Their small size and the fact many emoji look similar makes it easy for a reader to misinterpret the intended meaning from the sender’s message. “