Blog Post


Emojis, emoticons, GIFs, Bitmojis, discrimination and sexual harassment

There is an “emerging law of emojis.” An emoji is an actual digital image or icon that is used to convey an emotion or intention in electronic communications like texts and emails. An emoticon is used when the sender groups a collection of standard keyboard characters, like :). Bitmojis, in which the sender uses a downloaded personalized avatar, and GIFs, a downloaded graphic image, are popularly used to punctuate an electronic communication. They indicate the sender’s intention and/or the recipient’s reaction. They are relevant in sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

Bigots and sexual harassers are not excused for making the work environment uncomfortable just because they insert a smiley face or a similar image in their nasty email or text. Likewise, if the recipient inserts a smiley face, it can show that the recipient finds the communication amusing rather than revolting.

Another issue to keep in mind is that different online platforms translate emojis differently. A toy squirt gun on the sender’s platform might be received as a more menacing real handgun.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


Blog Archives