Emojis, or emoticons, have become increasingly common fixtures in our everyday lives. Described by one court as the “little cartoon face that can be added to the text of an instant message . . . used to illustrate how the speaker is feeling or the intended message of what he or she has written,”1 emojis by their nature can clarify meaning, convey emotions—like love, frustration, anger, and sarcasm—and may even suggest tone. By virtue of this, emojis are increasingly seen as having evidentiary significance. This presents a new issue for courts to grapple with: should these symbols be understood as literal depictions of a sender’s feelings and intentions for purposes of criminal conviction? As social media becomes an increasingly important source of evidence for law enforcement,2 so do emojis. Several recent arrests and prosecutions have involved, at least in some form, the emoji.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on April 16, 2016. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Rosen, Rachel, "Police are arresting people for making threats with emojis — :D or :(?" (2016). AELJ Blog. 106.