Emoji ruled legally binding in Canada

Originally published at: Emoji ruled legally binding in Canada | Boing Boing


:canada: :judge: :speech_balloon: :+1: :heavy_equals_sign: :page_facing_up: :chains:


This makes me think about how when I text people who have iPhones, I’ll often get a reply “Mrs. X_____ Loved [copy of the text I sent them]” which I assume is a workaround for a “reaction” functionality that is available on iPhones, but not in Android. I certainly would not argue that someone pressing a reaction can be sufficiently translated to the text “they loved it!”

Similar question arise out of the new BBS reactions and have been discussed at length. The heart has changed quite a bit. I still use it most of the time, and the other reactions sparingly. The heart - for me - still has a range of meanings, but perhaps the existence of the other reactions has changed and narrowed the perception of the heart…


The great adage of text- (or emoji-) based communication - if you want to ensure people understand - be specific - and realize and accept that there will still be people who won’t understand.


100% agree, and would really expect contract law to be more about formality and specificity. I really can’t decide who I think is more at fault in this particular case, the person attempting to confirm a contract over text, or the person who carelessly and ambiguously responded over text…


They had a history of several contracts written, signed and photographed by the buyer on his phone then sent to the seller for approval. In the past, the seller had replied “OK” or “looks good” and those went through without issue. Judge ruled that both parties should have had an understanding based on past history that this was a GO scenario.


My previous standard for dumb legally binding things was a faxed signature.


“Up yours!” /s


I bite my thumb.


So if you sent someone an emoji of a skull and bottle of poison and knife … that could constitute a legal threat against their life?

Is a winking emoji the same as a “I hereby accept this as a binding contract " … and is an emoji on one device the exact same on another? What if a firmware update on an iPhone turns all your 'Thumbs Up” emojis into birthday cakes? OR… how’s this… what if you get a brown-skinned Thumbs Up emoji from a White person?

Because ME. how I manage MY life, i don’t recognize emojis as anything other than doodles… Are
we so infected with digital lifestyle that a parent can be considered abusive if they take away the iPad from their kid?

And we’re going to let a judge decide what is acceptable legal confirmation? Pretty complex area, this will get overturned on appeal … I sure hope.

People have lost their frikkin minds.

1 Like

This vendor really caught some flax over his texting skills


How is :+1: different in this context than OK?


My understanding is that there is generally not true. Courts (at least in the U.S., though this article would imply Canada is similar) tend to weigh implied intent very heavily. Pretty much anything, if the other party can reasonably be expected to have interpreted it as agreement, can be legally binding.

  • Different platforms’ interpretation of the Unicode emoji ‘grinning face with smiling eyes’. On Google Nexus, this is a toothy smiling face. On Apple, this looks like a grimace with teeth bared that some people interpreted as “ready to fight”.
    A huge interpretation disparity existed in relation to Microsoft’s Windows 10 version of grinning squinting face which 44 per cent of people surveyed interpreted as negative while 54 per cent interpreted as positive (“Blissfully happy” or “ready to fight”: Varying Interpretations of Emoji).
  • Unsupported emojis. A ‘laughing clown face’ for a Samsung user can become a question mark in a box, if sent to an Apple user. If the recipient assumes the placeholder icon is the intended emoji, they think the sender has sent ‘?’ when they should’ve seen a laughing clown.

It’s unlikely judicial officers will take these factors into account. Currently, the courts’ understanding of emoji use is limited at best (see, for example, Warren v Peat [2017] FCCA 664 and R v Mella [2017] NSWDC 193).

(that’s australian law, and things may have changed)


This was a really weird and fascinating case. I’m not sure I agree with the ruling, though.

The farmer says he was sent a picture of the contract, and he replied with a thumbs up. He says he meant he was acknowledging receipt of the document and would look it over later. That’s a really reasonable interpretation of a single thumbs-up in my opinion. Especially with no other context, for the seller to claim that constituted signing and acceptance of the terms of the contract is really stretching, if you ask me.

All that said, obviously everyone should have been a lot more verbose here. That anyone would send or accept a major contract via a picture of it in a text message is nuts.

Furthermore, this was an agricultural contract. The buyer says they came looking for their flax order at harvest time and it wasn’t there. So during the entire growing season, these two never communicated at all? No “how’s my crop looking this year” or “when do you think you’ll want pick it up in the fall” or anything? Just a photo, an emoji, and six months later a demand of delivery? It’s all really weird.

I feel bad for the farmer kinda getting shafted here, but also come on guys. Get it together. This isn’t how you run a business.


Well texting contract stuff is just dumb, to start with. They should have flaxed it.

(I’ll get my coat.)


At least the defense did not fall back on a straw man argument.

But they seem to have failed to properly seed their arguments.


Same here.
I use the thumbs up on What’s App a lot just to indicate, “yep, this came through, I saw it,” when I don’t have time to respond otherwise.
But running a business, or needing a shipment, this all seems very lax for the flax.
I mostly feel bad that the farmer must have had a rather crummy lawyer…could they not show examples of how “that emoji doesn’t mean what you think it means”?


I’m not so sure he wasn’t just trying to get out of it because of the price difference.
He’d previously accepted via text (OK vs :+1: ). He claimed it was “I saw this” but then never explicitly said “no”? I don’t buy it.


Totally could be.
But, and I’m just arguing for the sake of it here, it’s an interesting case, if someone from those earlier text exchanges in years past had failed to pick up their order, do you think the farmer would’ve been given the same benefit of the oat…I mean doubt? That them sending a pic of a contract and getting an “okay” and no further communication represented a binding contract? And they’d be legally bound to pay for the crop?
Seems pretty unlikely to me, but IANAL.