A court in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan equated the “thumbs up” emoji to a contract signature and ordered the farmer to pay 82,000 Canadian dollars ($61,442) in compensation for the unfulfilled contract.
In 2021, Kent Mickleborough, a wholesale grain buyer, sent out a bulk message to customers that he wanted to buy 86 tons of flax for 17 Canadian dollars ($12.73) per bushel. He then had a telephone conversation with farmer Chris Achter, which resulted in Mickleborough texting Achter with a photo of the contract and asking him to “confirm the flax contract” in the message.
Akhter responded with a thumbs up emoji, which usually means like. But the farmer never delivered the flax in November, as required by the contract. The buyer went to court and showed other similar photos of contracts with response text confirmations. He assured that he interpreted the emoji as an agreement to fulfill the contract.
According to Akhter, he didn’t have time to read the contract then, the like meant only confirmation of receipt of the message. The farmer’s lawyer objected to cross-examining his client about the meaning of the thumbs up, arguing that his client “is not an expert on emoji”. Then Judge Timothy Keane turned to the dictionary for an interpretation, after which he ruled:
“This court readily accepts that the emoji 👍 is an unconventional means of “signing” a document, but nevertheless, in the circumstances, it was an acceptable way to convey both purposes of “signing.”
Keane also dismissed the defense’s concerns that the ruling would open up the possibility of different interpretations of other emojis, such as “punch” or “handshake.” Judge Keene noted that the court “cannot (and should not) try to stop the wave of technology and the general use of emoji.”
“This seems to be the new reality of Canadian society, and the courts need to be prepared for new challenges that may arise from the use of emoji and the like,” the judge concluded.
This “new reality” forces you to be extremely careful and carefully choose your answers online. To make sure that the story is not a hoax, you can follow the link to the court decision.
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Source: The Guardian