Imagine if an emoji — one casually fired off in a text-message conversation — ended up costing the sender thousands of dollars. Or $3,000, to be exact.
That’s what happened in Israel recently, after a judge determined that a message containing a string of emojis conveyed clear intent.
The case was a dispute over rent. A landlord placed an ad for his apartment online, and a prospective renter sent the landlord a series of texts, including one that read, “Good morning — <smiley face> — we want the house — <flamenco dancer>, <dancing girls>, <peace sign>, <comet>, <squirrel>, <champagne bottle> — just need to go over the details…When suits you?”
Based on this and a few other texts, the landlord removed the listing, presuming the renter’s intent to take the apartment.
But the renter didn’t follow up and never signed any documents. In fact, she disappeared after a few days of communication, which eventually led to this lawsuit.
According to the judge’s ruling, the text messages — and the emojis, in particular — signalled clear interest on the part of the renter:
“The…text message sent by defendant…included a smiley, a bottle of champagne, dancing figures and more,” he wrote. “These icons convey great optimism. Although this message did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, this message naturally led to the plaintiff’s great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment…These symbols, which convey to the other side that everything is in order, were misleading.”
The decision also made note of the consistency of the emoji use:
“The festive icons at the beginning of the negotiations…and those smileys at the end of the negotiations…misled the plaintiff to think the defendants were still interested in his apartment. [They] support the conclusion that the defendants acted in bad faith in the negotiations.”
The judge ordered the defendant to pay the equivalent of just over…