Even “boy moms” have emojis that have become “evidence in court” worth tens of millions of dollars

There are many emojis that have become popular in 2023, and each of them is a spiritual spokesperson. We use "Mai" to lament the humbleness of part-time work, use "Capybara" as an example to persuade ourselves to be calm, and use "Loopy" to express whether we want to complain but cannot complain, dare to be angry or dare not Yan's mood.

Every time a meme becomes popular, you can almost write a eloquent analysis article, as if you get a high score in reading comprehension in high school Chinese and understand what he is thinking better than the author himself.

However, even now that emoticon resources are extremely abundant, when I see the "smile" on WeChat that is more mysterious than the Mona Lisa, I still subconsciously tremble. I first confirm that the other person is an elder, and then reply with two "roses" .

Emojis, which have been around for more than 20 years, are unpretentious but no less lethal. While "yin and yang" have long become part of the Internet surfing civilization, they have proven over the decades that using the wrong emoji is more terrifying than not using any emoji at all.

Every emoji has the potential to become “evidence in court”

If an emoji is worth a thousand words, it could also be worth thousands of dollars in a lawsuit.

What recently prompted Bloomberg to sigh was the yellow moon in front of me, which seemed to be hesitant to speak and had darting eyes. It was officially named "Full Moon Face". It's hard to imagine that it stirred up tens of millions of dollars. A bloody storm for the dollar.

In August 2022, a negative report about a certain home furnishing chain company was posted on X (formerly Twitter). Ryan Cohen is the majority shareholder of this company and has nearly 400,000 followers on X. He commented on this report with a "moon face".

The seemingly ordinary emoji is actually a wink for the "knowledgeable" people. It points to a buzzword in the investment market – "To The Moon", implying that the stock price will rise, and family members rush to buy it. into shares.

Then Ryan Cohen increased his holdings of stocks, and the stock price soared due to market optimism. However, he quickly sold all his shares at a high price and made more than $60 million. The stock price plummeted when the news came out.

Retail investors who followed the trend and lost millions of dollars at high prices sued Ryan Cohen for "securities fraud," and the thick-eyebrow emoji was listed as one of the charges.

The lawyer defended in every possible way, saying that it was just a cartoon moon and why should it be taken seriously. However, in July 2023, the opinion was rejected. The court held that when viewed in context, the emoji was not clear and should be held responsible for misleading investors.

In addition to stock trading, which is a risk-taking and cautious approach, buying and selling disputes are also financial troubles that emojis often cause. Users often do bad things for the sake of convenience or good intentions. The most common emojis are the easiest to fall prey to.

In June 2023, a Jiangxi man became a debt guarantor because he replied an "OK" emoji on WeChat, and then became a defendant because the guarantor failed to repay on time.

Coincidentally, a Canadian farmer and this Jiangxi man had the same problem. When a buyer sent the farmer a purchase contract and asked for confirmation in the chat interface, the farmer responded with a "thumbs up" emoji.

The buyer did not receive the goods on time and sued the farmer for breach of contract. The farmer also felt aggrieved. His sending an emoji did not mean that he agreed to the sale, but only confirmed that he had received the message.

In July 2023, they went to court. The court ruled that the "thumbs up" emoji was equally valid as an electronic signature, and ordered the farmers to compensate approximately US$60,000.

The farmer's defense lawyer asked: Today, "thumbs" can sign contracts, so common "fist bumps" and "handshakes" are also allowed. Once the floodgates open, will the court be busy with other things?

The courts really feel that they cannot and should not prevent the popularity of emojis, and are ready to deal with more challenges that will follow.

In fact, niche emojis are also risky, and there have been precedents. An Israeli couple planning to rent a house sent their landlord a series of emojis: a smiley face, a comet, a champagne bottle, a dancing girl, a victory sign, and a chipmunk.

The landlord thought this meant agreeing to rent, so he took down the property information. As a result, the couple stopped responding. The landlord was angry and took them to court. The judge also supported the landlord, although these emojis did not constitute a binding contract. However, it conveyed great optimism and ordered the defendant to compensate the landlord for approximately $2,200 in lost rent.

In addition to stock market turmoil and business disputes, emojis have also appeared in all kinds of cases, large and small, including drug trafficking, bribery, sexual harassment, and even murder.

In these contexts, emojis have become fig leaves, hidden rules, and underworld rules. "Candy" and "wine glass" are synonymous with illegal drugs, and "eggplant," "peach" and "red lips" may have sexual connotations.

▲ Drug-related emoji slang.

In 2016, a French court sentenced a 22-year-old man to three months in prison for sending a text message to his ex-girlfriend using the pistol emoji, which the court considered to be a "real threat."

I don’t know if it is related to the case. The “pistol” emoji has been changed many times. In 2016, Apple took the lead in changing the anti-personnel weapon into a water gun that is harmless to humans and animals. Around 2018, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Twitter, etc. also followed suit. Everyone's happiness is based on Xiao Lizi's sadness alone.

The Jiangsu High Court reminded in 2022 that since 2018, there have been 158 cases nationwide in which emojis were used as evidence. Emojis such as "like", "OK" and "sun" have been written into the judgment, and emojis have become legal text forms. .

Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, also found that in 2023 alone, there were more than 200 emoji-related legal cases in the United States, compared with only 25 in 2016.

Emojis are regarded as the universal language of the Internet, but in reality, they are not always as simple as "looking at pictures and speaking." Understanding the meaning of communication depends on the tone and context. "Translating" emojis is more subjective. There is also a lack of unified standards.

This is the biggest headache for judges, but it is also where the situation breaks down. When analyzing specific issues, "OK" may mean consent in this case in this court, but not necessarily in that case in that court.

The knowledge of emoji is vast and profound, and judges have to learn it from scratch.

Dictionaries or emoji sites like Dictionary.com, Emojipedia, etc. will often point out their surface and deeper meanings. When deciding a case, the judge must not only look at the context, but also refer to these definitions just like translating legal provisions.

No matter what the expression means, it’s best not to interpret it casually. It’s originally meant to convey meaning, and try to put as much thought into it as possible in the future. Remember to supplement the meaning with words to avoid letting the judge decide what it means.

Emoji are easily misunderstood, perhaps doomed from the beginning

Putting aside the humans who use emojis indiscriminately, are there nothing wrong with emojis themselves?

Going back to the origin of everything, emoji originated in Japan and is a combination of the Japanese "絵" (e) and "character" (moji). The 90 black-and-white characters built into one of SoftBank's mobile phones are considered the earliest emojis and can replace text when sending text messages, but they were little known after the phone failed.

In 1999, Japanese designer Hotaka Kurita, the father of emoji, took inspiration from comics, kanji and street signs and developed 176 12 x 12 pixel color images for his telecommunications company. They refer to everyday things such as weather and traffic. They quickly became popular and laid the foundation for later emojis.

Around 2010, emoji became popular in North America and around the world because of the emoji keyboard launched by Apple's iOS 5, and was standardized by the Unicode Alliance. Each emoji has since had a unique character encoding to achieve compatibility with different systems, devices, and platforms. At the same time, the alliance is also responsible for approving and adding new emojis every year.

However, emoji styles are not uniform in different places, because the Unicode Alliance only provides reference shapes and text descriptions of emojis. Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. fine-tune them according to their own design guidelines, and then launch new emojis through system or software updates.

Misunderstandings may also form during this process, such as the "frowning person" emoji. Apple and Google's versions have a frown, but Samsung's version looks very angry and seems to be about to fight at any time. Fortunately, changes were made in October 2023. Joined the family with a sad look on his face.

▲ From top to bottom are Apple, Google, and Samsung.

However, don’t overestimate human understanding. Even if you see emojis with the same style, you may not be able to understand the same meaning.

Anyone can submit their own emoji scheme to the Unicode Alliance, so in fact, each application document states the original meaning of the emoji, but once it reaches the hands of the majority of users, the right to interpret it does not necessarily lie with the designer himself.

You may not know that the original meaning of the "boy mom" emoji is so straightforward – "a man with a swollen belly". In addition to representing groups such as transgender men, it can also convey the meaning of being full.

Some designers only discovered after emoji became popular that they did not think carefully enough and their efforts were misunderstood by most users, but they regretted it too late.

Japan’s “hot spring” emoji is seen by many foreigners as hot tea, hot soup and even restaurants. The Japanese government learned from the experience and considered adding three more bathers before hosting the Tokyo Olympics, but it has not been able to implement it so far. The Unicode Alliance generally does not accept underlying updates of emojis.

The "nerd" emoji had a similar problem. Users who had represented it for many years realized something was wrong when they thought about it. Almost all the initial versions of "nerds" wore glasses and had buck teeth. However, considering the alleged stereotype, Google, Meta, etc. removed the buck teeth, but Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. still use the buck teeth design.

In November 2023, a 10-year-old boy in the UK was dissatisfied with the iPhone's "nerd" emoji, feeling that it depicted people wearing glasses as rabbits or mice, and launched an online petition asking Apple to make Tweaked, but haven't received a response yet.

Similar to buzzwords that are updated every year, emojis do not exist in isolation and are iterated with culture. Ordinary emojis may also cause offense in certain contexts.

The "pinching hand" emoji, which made Korean men break their guard and allegedly mocked the size of a certain part, caused a lot of uproar in 2023, and an animation studio was forced to apologize. Whether it's a game promotional video, an advertising poster or a Japanese cartoon, anything that seems suspicious at all will be scanned by them under a microscope and collectively condemned.

In fact, if you find the official description of the "pinching hand" emoji, you will find that it does mean that something is small or small, such as a small wallet, not much time, or just a little bit closer to death on the spot.

It’s just that excited Korean netizens took it to a new level of art. From then on, the general term for the “pinch hand” emoji became a specific term, and it was “that gesture” that had to be avoided when entering the Korean market. The only way to get rid of it once and for all is to stop painting.

Words have become inflationary, and emojis no longer make people speak well.

Emoji actually has a "distant relative" emoticon, which originated in the United States and is a combination of "emotion" and "icon".

In 1982, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, created ":-)" and ":-(" using punctuation marks, which are regarded as the plain text "grandfather" of emoji.

Scott saw that posters sometimes have conflicts with others, so he suggested using ":-)" to express a smiling face, which expresses joking or sarcasm, and ":-(" to express a crying face, which should be used for serious messages to reduce misunderstandings. Condition.

Although emoji and emoticons have different origins, they can both be regarded as "hieroglyphs" in the Internet era. They combine the characteristics of images and text and can express subtle emotions more vividly during chats.

To a certain extent, their original intention is to make people "talk well", making up for the shortcomings of text messages or emails when face-to-face contact is not possible. A researcher once pointed out that "positive emojis are like flashing lights on recording equipment."

Now we have more vivid automatic graphics and emoticons, but well-intentioned computer scientists did not expect that people are increasingly unable to speak well.

Many migrant workers in the Internet industry are likely to suffer from "word-pleasing syndrome". They address everyone as teacher respectfully, and "received" is followed by "~". If you can use "la" at the end, don't use "", if the person opposite is a leader. , plus "holding fists" and "roses".

In the past, emojis were used to fill emotions, but now they seem to be used to perform and recreate emotions. Who has never replied with a string of "Hahahahahahaha" but with an indifferent look on their face? When a word is used too often, it becomes less sincere. You have to invent new expressions or repeat it more times to make it appear less perfunctory.

We have become inseparable from emoji, not necessarily to make ourselves more friendly, but because we are afraid that others will think that we are not friendly enough.

This kind of corporate culture also exists abroad. Based on a survey of more than 9,000 respondents, the office communication software Slack found that most people believe that information is incomplete without emojis.

▲ Picture from: Slack

At the same time, on social media such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu, using emojis to go crazy is the main theme, and that seems to be who we really are. The algorithms of social media are also leading to this result. Everyone surfs the Internet with emotions, too many opinions and positions, and too few facts.

Facebook research found that when people are angry, they will be more active in replying to posts, consuming, and clicking on ads. On Weibo, we often see some "raising blood pressure" comments with low likes and many replies, which make people see breast hyperplasia.

It’s probably the expression of a person who is nurtured by the soil and water. No matter how you look at the emoji on Weibo, it always says “smiling on the face and mmp in the heart.”

Regardless of whether it is in terms of daily communication or court cases, emoji has broken away from the original "what you see is what you get" and is either meaningless or everything can be yin and yang.

Returning to its original intention, it should have been the universal language of the Internet and used to better convey information, but now it has more risks than enough effect. In places where the Internet is illegal, emojis are expensive, please don’t let anyone get the wrong idea.

It is as sharp as autumn frost and can ward off evil disasters. Work email: [email protected]

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