Communication methods continue to change and evolve. Today, even in business, communication occurs over a wide variety of platforms. Emojis, are small icons that serve many communicative functions and appear to be included in electronic communications. Many presume that the use of emojis are frivolous and more fun than serious. However, the use of emojis can raise complicated and complex legal questions and issues.
In the litigation context, discovery often requests that the party produce all communications. This could and likely would include communication that includes emojis. So, what was the intent of using the emoji? What was the purpose of the emoji? Does the emoji have a predefined meaning or interpretation? These are a few of the questions that Courts have been asking when viewing communications including emojis.
In recent years, references to emojis in the Courts have increased. In North Carolina, there is one reported case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals regarding emojis which was in the criminal law context. Many of the cases so far have been in the criminal law area. However, as emojis are used more often in the business and civil context, they will no doubt be reviewed by civil courts and will have some bearing on court decisions. It will be up the Courts to determine what the intent and purpose of the emoji represented.
When communicating, especially in the business context, be mindful of your words and the emojis used if you use them. They may be reviewed later by others.