The trial of alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht has already included discussions of Ulbricht's online diary, his OKCupid profile and how Bitcoin actually works. So it was only a matter of time until lawyers started arguing over the darknet mastermind's use of emoticons in his private communications.
In what is a legal first (probably), the judge in the case has ruled that jurors should take note of all use of emoticons in the transcripts. The prosecution had been reading a quote from Ulbricht's PMs that said "I'm so excited and anxious for our future, I could burst" – but notably omitted the smiley face that followed.
Ulbricht's defence attorney, Joshua L. Dratel, objected to the ommission. The judge agreed, ruling that the emoticons should be admissable as part of the evidence presented in the transcript.
Prosecutors have since been reading aloud emoticons in the transcript. This has proved pretty awkward in court:
The Silk Road trial has taken some twists and turns so far. Ulbricht's lawyers boldly claimed that the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts who ran Silk Road is in fact Mark Karpeles, the former CEO of doomed Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. Ulbricht's embarrassingly forlorn diary entries and emails have also been read out in court.
E-mail to his ex, dated the day after
I have poison oak rash from head to toe. I wish you were here to comfort me :(
This isn't the first time that webspeak has wormed its way into the trial. A week ago, lawyers had to clarify what "IRL" meant.
In a similar case of 21st century language invading the courtroom, a kid from Bushwick, New York was arrested at his home after the NYPD spotted a threatening series of emoji on his Facebook page. Osiris Aristy, 17, was taken in by cops after he allegedly posted an policeman emoji followed by three guns, along with threatening language. So I guess emoji can now be classed as death threats too.
Anyway, brb gotta do more work :/
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