Thumb emoji is binding, says court


Using emojis in a work conversation may lead to misunderstandings, but in the future you will have to be extra careful with the picture where you hold your thumb in the air.

A judge in Canada found that this emoji is evidence of a contractual agreement and is just as binding as a signature.

Chris Achter, a farmer from Saskatchewan, used the emoji in 2021 in a conversation with Kent Mickleborough, a grain buyer, reported The Guardian.

After Mickleborough signed a contract to buy 86 tons of flax, he sent a photo of it to Achter. The farmer responded with a thumbs up emoji – seemingly an indication that he agreed to sell it, but he never delivered.

The farmer argues that this is not what the emoji intended. According to him, he only forwarded it to show that he had received the contract, not that he agreed to the terms. He says he also assumed a “full contract will follow by fax or e-mail” so he could review it.

However, Mickleborough says he wrote: “Please confirm flax contract” along with the picture of the contract. So when Achter sent back the thumbs up emoji, Mickleborough accepted that it was “his way” of agreeing to the terms.

As an outsider, it is clear how the text conversation can lead to a misunderstanding, given the different ways people use emojis.

However, Judge TJ Keene pointed out that the two men had often previously made agreements through text messages. This conversation therefore resembled previous conversations. He also pointed out that’s definition of the thumbs up emoji is used in digital communication to “show approval, agreement or encouragement”, especially in Western cultures.

He ordered Achter to pay damages of 82,200 Canadian dollars (about R1.1 million).