The case sought to determine whether a Canadian farmer had agreed to sell tons of flax to a grain buyer in 2021 by replying with a thumbs-up emoji.
A Canadian judge has ruled that the widely used thumbs-up emoji can affirm that a person is legally entering into a contract.
According to a report from The New York Times, Judge T.J. Keene said the decision mirrors a “new reality in Canadian society” as more people use emojis to express themselves in all sorts of situations, including business dealings.
The case sought to determine whether a farmer had agreed to sell tons of flax to a grain buyer in 2021. As per the report, the buyer sent the purchase contract to the farmer and wrote, “Please confirm flax contract.“
Upon receiving the thumbs-up emoji as a reply, he understood the farmer “was agreeing to the contract,” and the emoji was his way of accepting it. The farmer, on the other hand, said the emoji was meant to confirm that he “received the flax contract.”
The judge noted that the farmer and buyer had had a longstanding trade relationship, and that the farmer had responded to previous sales agreements with texts such as “looks good,” “ok” or “yup.” In the decision, Keene referred to the dictionary.com definition of the thumbs-up emoji: “used to express assent, approval or encouragement in digital communications, especially in Western cultures.”
Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, told the NYT that despite the decision, the meaning of the thumbs-up emoji remains an open question, depending on each case. The professor noted that some young people may use the emoji in a sarcastic or disingenuous way, while others may use it to confirm receiving a message. The gesture may also be offensive in some Middle Eastern countries, he said. The case reminds “people that using the thumbs-up emoji can have serious legal consequences,” Goldman added.