The Legal Complexity of Interpreting Emojis
For most people, emojis are a fun and clever way of expressing oneself via text messages, social media or email. From a legal vantage point, however, the use of emojis can raise head-scratching legal questions as to an emoji user’s intended meaning.
From a simple winking emoji to an angry face, the ways in which people can use these symbols to convey ideas or intent may not be immediately obvious. In recent years, courts around the world have increasingly understood that emojis can convey intent. One such case in Israel resulted in the court ruling that a landlord detrimentally relied on misleading emojis from potential tenants.
The Wall Street Journal’s detailed article underscores the ambiguity and legal uncertainty surrounding emojis for many practice areas. In a world where billions of emojis are used daily, it is clear that interpreting emojis will continue to be an important legal issue.
Still, the use of emojis are a relatively novel concept, and the courts are still trying to catch up to the culture’s rapidly changing technology. As such, it remains to be seen how family courts will treat emojis in Florida divorce and similar family law disputes.
Emojis As Divorce Evidence?
While the intent of emojis may be difficult to discern, this will not even become a legal issue unless the evidence is found to be authentic. As a general rule, current federal rules of evidence require that a text message must be authentic before it can be used as evidence in divorce.
This authentication requirement can come with its share of challenges where texting is concerned, such as proving that a spouse in question actually wrote or sent a text. If this authentication standard is met, however, then the intent of a text message or emoji may be considered.
It is at this point that it becomes conceivable that the emoji’s intent can be discussed in a divorce hearing. For example, suppose a divorcing spouse alleges that their partner was abusive towards the children. An authenticated text message where a parent angrily threatened the children and punctuated the threats with “angry face” emojis could be construed to show the parent’s intent or state of mind regarding the children.
Even so, it is important to note that no laws currently exist that provide clear guidance on how to handle emojis. Few court cases exist, and there is little agreement or consistency to be found in the various court decisions.
For the time being, however, it is a generally wise practice for any divorcing spouse to carefully consider their use of text, social media and email during divorce. As such, emojis ought to be used with caution as well, in light of this legal uncertainty.
If you have questions regarding a divorce attorney (Tampa, Florida), or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org