Emojis are steadily taking over every day conversation and the ever growing lexicon of said emojis is a testament to that little notion.
While we really don’t have anything to worry about emojis (other than stressing over whether the slightly smiling face emoji you’ve been sent is positive or some passive aggressive shade), lawyers and judges are probably wishing that these things would just disappear because it’s making their job far more difficult than it should be.
According to CNN, emojis are showing up in more court cases in the United States and both lawyers and judges are struggling mightily in tackling the nuances of emojis when they’re presented as evidence.
The issue lies with the subjective nature of an emoji’s meaning. No guidelines exist on how to approach interpreting emojis and lawyers and judges – especially those who are older and aren’t hip to the vernacular – are having problems figuring out what an emoji means in the context of a case.
Emojis are increasingly coming up in sexual harassment and criminal cases, as well as workplace lawsuits – 33 in 2017, 53 in 2018, and nearly 50 in 2019 already – and lawyers are having to argue what they all mean to judges and jurors. It’s all easier said than done because emojis can get lost in translation, especially when actual text isn’t used alongside them and lawyers are forced to describe what an emoji means using only words.
Is a dizzy face emoji enough to establish that an individual knew that a murder was happening? Does an eggplant emoji constitute to harassment or does it just mean someone wants to have eggplant for dinner? Does sending a knife emoji to someone constitute as a threat?
There have been cases where emojis they actually added context but judges have opted to omit them as evidence because they either didn’t “get it” or thought it was all superfluous. For example, crown and money emojis don’t mean much on their own but when used in the context of a sex-trafficking case, there’s evidence towards things like prostitution (apparently a crown usually means a pimp in that scenario).
Beyond the struggles of figuring out what emojis mean in the context of court cases, the courts are also having to deal with various platforms rendering the same emoji differently.
For example, depending on if you use an Apple device or Android, some platforms render the pistol emoji to look like a real gun while others render it to look like a water pistol.
This could result in inconsistencies in rulings and miscommunication, which isn’t exactly what you want in court cases since it could mean the difference between guilty or innocent.
Lawyers and judges are probably bemoaning death of the English language due to the rise of emojis but they couldn’t be more wrong. Studies and research has shown that emojis basically a whole new language and a natural substitute for gestures. If anything, researchers are arguing that emojis complement language since they can add more meaning to a message depending on context.
So in short, emojis are here to stay and lawyers and judges will just have to get used to them. But hey, they’ll get used to emojis after an adjustment period, especially when more come up in court cases. After all, we got used to Hawaiian shirts after a while so emojis will get their time eventually.