The Legal Minefield of Emojis: Compliance Challenges in Corporate Communication
January 9, 2024
Emojis are increasingly posing challenges in legal and compliance contexts, according to an article on the FCPA Blog. With over 200 cases annually referencing emojis, their ambiguous and non-committal nature becomes problematic in legal proceedings. Courts are recognizing emojis as symbols that may convey actionable ideas, and liability is determined by the specific meaning within the context.
In a shareholder class action case against investor Ryan Cohen, a moon face emoji in a tweet about Bed Bath & Beyond became central to the plaintiffs’ claim that they were misled. The court denied a motion for summary judgment, emphasizing that liability hinges on the emoji’s meaning in context. Meanwhile, a Canadian judge ruled that a thumbs-up emoji can constitute a binding contract, underscoring the legal weight attributed to these symbols.
Beyond legal challenges, emojis are becoming part of corporate communication, creating potential pitfalls. In the case of FTX Group, emojis were used on Slack to approve expenses and invoices, leading to informal records of multimillion-dollar transfers. The use of emojis introduces the risk of misinterpretation, especially in cross-cultural contexts where their meanings can vary significantly.
The article urges compliance officers to recognize the risks associated with emojis and incorporate this awareness into training sessions. Everyone in a company, from board members to field staff, needs to be aware of the dangers posed by emojis in professional communication. As companies continue to embrace emojis for efficiency and expressiveness, it becomes essential to balance their use with an understanding of the legal and compliance implications they might carry.
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