Emojis Showing Up in More Court Cases, Forcing Judges to Rule on What They Mean

A good friend of mine who runs a collection agency sent me a link to a very interesting story last night, one which might not be impacting the credit and collection industry now, but likely soon will.

There has been an exponential increase in the number of court cases involving emojis and emoticons and judges are being asked to rule about the intent and meaning of emojis in cases ranging from sexual predation to murder and robbery.

Is it unfathomable that one day, down the line, an individual replies to a text message from a debt collector with something along the lines of ☹️ or 🤔 and it could be interpreted that the debt is being disputed?

Nearly 30% of all court cases from 2018 included some reference to emojis or emoticons, according to one law professor’s analysis, and their ambiguity in what they mean and how they are interpreted is becoming a larger issue for judges.

In one case, a couple was charged thousands of dollars after a landlord sued them because he interpreted a string of emojis to indicate that the couple were planning on renting out his apartment. The judge ruled that the couple acted in bad faith because the emojis used — a champagne bottle, a squirrel, and a cement — conveyed “great optimism.”

More collectors are using text messaging as a way of communicating with individuals, because individuals want to use that channel. But agencies should make sure to have sound policies and procedures regarding their text message communications, especially as the use of emojis spreads and becomes more ubiquitous.

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