Emojis and the Law

Here's more on the subject discussed in the Tip of the Night for December 21, 2019, "Your Recipient May Not See Your☺As You Do".


In 2018, a professor of law at the Santa Clara University School of Law, published a study focusing on how electronic productions may vary the appearance of emojis which are standardized in Unicode. Goldman, Eric, Emojis and the Law (2018). 93 Washington Law Review 1227 (2018), Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper, No. 2018-06, available at, https://ssrn.com/abstract=3133412 .


Goldman's study makes these key points:

  1. Different platforms will interpret emojis differently, as Unicode emoji standardizations do not take designs into account. The original color and shape can be altered. In this example of how a cow emoji will be shown on different platforms, the Unicode-coded emoji is shown on the left - black & white and just an outline.

2. Emojis often contain subtle features which some users might not notice. Compare the Unicode “Smiling Face With Open Mouth & Smiling Eyes” emoji:



. . . with the "Smiling Face With Open Mouth & Cold Sweat” emoji.



3. Platforms often vary how an emoji with a fixed description appears in different versions of their software. See the evolution of the Microsoft grinning face emoji:



4. Users will assign very different meanings to emojis that appear differently on two platforms. For example, the Android "Grimacing Face” emoji got the reactions shown in orange on the below chart, but the Apple version of the "Grimacing Face” face emoji got the reactions shown in blue.



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