We all know how misleading a text message can be and how easy it can be to misread it. However, an Israeli judge thinks that some messages are all too clear and has found a couple guilty of misleading their potential landlord based on some emojis in a text exchange.
A couple must pay $2,200 after a judge ruled in favor of Yaniv Dahan, a landlord who took the pair to small claims court in Tel Aviv after a text message exchange that he says left him high and dry.
According to Engadget, the couple had reached out to Dahan about an ad he had placed for one of his properties. Using the emojis 😊 💃🏼 👯 ✌ among others within a text, the couple wrote: "Good morning, interested in the house... Just need to discuss the details... When's a good time for you?"
Thinking he had a solid offer for the house, Dahan took down his ad. The couple sent him a text to let him know that they would be forwarding him their requested adjustments to the apartment contract, but that turned out to be their final message. He did not hear from them again until he decided to take the matter to court.
The judge sympathized with Dahan and ruled that the couple had intended to mislead the landlord based on their use of emoticons and had acted in "bad faith."
"The [emoji laden] text message sent by Defendant 2 on June 5, 2016, was accompanied by quite a few symbols, as mentioned. These included a 'smiley,' a bottle of champagne, dancing figures and more. 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. As a result, the Plaintiff removed his online ad about renting his apartment. Even towards the end of the negotiations, in the same text messages sent at the end of July, Defendant 2 used 'smiley' symbols. These symbols, which convey to the other side that everything is in order, were misleading, since at that time the defendants already had great doubts as to their desire to rent the apartment. The combination of these — the festive icons at the beginning of the negotiations, which created much reliance with the prosecutor, and those smileys at the end of the negotiations, which misled the Plaintiff to think the defendants were still interested in his apartment — support the conclusion that the defendants acted in bad faith in the negotiations."
It's a bizarre ruling for a bizarre case; a contract had yet to be worked out. While it was rude of the couple to leave Dahan hanging, taking them to court seems excessive. It also signals a jarring step into the future.
Emojis (like other images) can mean different things to different people. While the outcomes of emoticon cases like these will certainly vary, the need to interpret the subtleties of emojis will most likely only grow as social interactions take place more and more onscreen.
Long, hard court battles are inevitable as words are already complex enough to unravel without including winky faces, sassy ghosts, and (god forbid) smileys.