Emoji are commonly used in modern text communication. However, as graphics with nuanced details, emoji may be open to interpretation. Emoji also render differently on different viewing platforms (e.g., Apple’s iPhone vs. Google’s Nexus phone), potentially leading to communication errors. We explore whether emoji renderings or differences across platforms give rise to diverse interpretations of emoji.
Through an online survey, we solicit people’s interpretations of a sample of the most popular emoji characters, each rendered for multiple platforms. Both in terms of sentiment and semantics, we analyze the variance in interpretation of the emoji, quantifying which emoji are most (and least) likely to be misinterpreted. In cases in which participants rated the same emoji rendering, they disagreed on whether the sentiment was positive, neutral, or negative 25% of the time. When considering renderings across platforms, these disagreements only increase. Overall, we find significant potential for miscommunication, both for individual emoji renderings and for different emoji renderings across platforms.