In yet another example of society outpacing the law, the courts are being asked to interpret what emojis mean, legally.
As a person who has experienced some emoji confusion myself, I can see this being yet another giant question mark in divorce and family law cases (yet another question that has to be answered with “it depends”). (Sadly, I thought the steam emoji meant anger until I read this article. Don’t tell my wife or kids how lame I am).
As the article points out, each emoji has a cultural significance, and even subcultures within subcultures can interpret them differently.
This is a morass for judges (and therefore lawyers) of every age, but as mentioned in the article, especially for the older judges that did not grow up using emojis (or cell phones or text messages for that matter).
As a half joking, half serious question, are we going to need interpreters for emojis at some point?
Some other questions that come to mind: Am I going to have to buy a new Black’s Law Dictionary for the first time ever because they define emojis? Will the emojis go at the beginning of the dictionary or the end? In an appendix? Are lawyers going to be allowed or banned from communicating with each via emojis?
The issue can have serious repercussions in family cases, especially domestic violence and child custody cases where issues of threats, insults, degradation, and tone of communication can make all of the difference in a judge’s eyes. How many judges are prepared to read that tone accurately?
I’m not aware of any North Carolina cases that have tackled emojis in general, or specific emojis and their meaning. But, at some point, it is going to happen. And the ramifications will be fascinating.