Tshepo Confidence Mashile, an attorney from Mkhonto & Ngwenya Attorneys wrote an excellent article in the attorneys’ magazine on using emoji and how using an emoji can actually land you in court.
He says: “Emoji are the language of our online era, the thumbs-up to a question, the wink to our wit.”
Often, when we run out of words, emoji can help us to communicate better. They help us to express emotions that some of us didn’t know we had! However, Tshepo warns us to think before you emoji. In Fairfax, Virginia, a 12 year old girl faced criminal charges after using gun, bomb and knife emoji in an Instagram post.
An American man who was going through a divorce also landed up in criminal court after he posted on Facebook that he wanted to kill his wife. Much time was spent in court interpreting the emoji that he had posted next to his comments, namely: (:- P). His attorneys argued that this indicated that he was making the threats tongue in cheek. If the judge agreed, then he would be off the hook. The emoji could indicate whether he had really meant the threats.
In another court case, the judge said: “The joking, hostile and sarcastic manner of the comments, the use of an emoticon showing someone sticking their tongue out [?] … were made facetiously and with the intent to ridicule, criticize and denigrate (the complainant)” The result: the man lost his job.
In South Africa the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act deals with the kind of communications under which emoji would fall. So, if you use an emoji, it can be used against you in a court. Be careful!