Emojis, or the pictures and images that can be imbedded into a text message or electronic communication, are a form of communication being used with such frequency that they are turning up in court documents as well. But they are causing some confusion for lawyers trying to decipher transcripts of text messages and emails with emojis scattered throughout the text.
Is the emoji with a smile and tears “laughing until he cries” or “relieved” or “in pain”?
Are the two hands clasped together “praying” or “clapping”?
Are the laughing emojis laughing “with you” or “at you”?
Is the face with the kissing lips a “friendly kiss” or a “flirty kiss”?
Is the brown smiling emoji “excrement” or “ice cream”?
So much of this rests on the recipient’s personal interpretation of the image, that a group of Atlanta attorneys who met in the summer of 2017 couldn’t agree upon the meanings of the many emojis they examined at a meeting they dubbed “Emoji 101” (Cherney, 2018).
While this sounds like a funny situation, the issue of emojis becomes much more serious when the outcome of a trial or business deal depends on the interpretation of the communications involving emojis. One landlord took his apartment off the market when perspective tenants sent him a text including a “champagne bottle” emoji, only to find out that the couple did not intend to rent from him. In a sexual harassment suit, one employee had to explain whether a “red lipstick kiss” was a friendly or flirtatious communication. In 2017, 33 state and federal opinions mentioned emojis (Cherney, 2018). Data indicates that the number will rise in 2018.
In family law, clients often want to present their text histories as evidence. This becomes more complicated when the use of emojis clouds the meanings of the texts. The bottom line: If you have something important to say, say it without emojis.
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