Over the last 19 months, ever since the pandemic confined many of us to our homes, we’ve found new ways to communicate and build rapport online—including through small but mighty symbols like the emoji. They have given us a new means of expression during a time when distributed workforces are more the norm, helping us nurture relationships and create meaning from sentiment shared online. Emoji have been proven to foster more effective collaboration, build culture, and improve productivity.

While emoji have existed for some time now, popular on our mobile phones and social networks, their usage has hit an all-time high since COVID-19, including in the workplace. It’s no surprise, then, that they are also showing up more often in court too. In recent years, we’ve seen a huge rise in emoji and emoticon references in U.S. court opinions, a trend that we’ll likely see continue as they become a standard in our communication. There are dozens of examples of where emoji have emerged as substantial evidence in sexual harassment, criminal, and defamation cases, as well as in contract disputes where emoji expressions have constituted legally binding agreements.