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The News You May Have Missed: October 2023

Legally Binding Emoji

A Canadian judge ordered a Saskatchewan farmer to pay more than $61,785 in damages after he ruled that texting the thumbs-up emoji is enough to accept contractual terms (Reuters, July 7). Chris Achter, owner of a farming company in Swift Current, had sent the emoji in response to a photograph of a contract from a grain buyer in 2021. Months later, when the time of the delivery arrived, the buyer, South West Terminal, did not receive the grain from Achter. Their dispute led to what the court called “a far-flung search for the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone in cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada” to unearth the meaning of the thumbs-up emoji. South West Terminal argued that the emoji implied acceptance of contractual terms while Achter said it only indicated he had received the contract and not his agreement to it. In a summary judgment citing 24 instances of use of the emoji, Judge T.J. Keene said he was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities” that, by using the emoji, Achter “okayed or approved the contract.”


“Green” Government Branding

Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s Federal Minister for Climate Action, drew criticism for offering citizens a year of free public transportation in exchange for getting a “green” tattoo (United Press International, Aug. 23). The Green Party placed pop-up tattoo shops at the Electric Love Festival in Salzburg and the Frequency Festival in St. Polten, offering Austrians the perk if they got a tattoo reading “KlimaTicket,” the name of the nation’s new annual transport pass. KlimaTicket, which translates to “climate ticket,” is aimed at discouraging “motorized individual transport” and bringing the country closer to its carbon-emission goals. Six people took up the offer, and several more got free, green-themed tattoos with no strings attached. Henrike Brandstötter, an opposition member of parliament, said that “offering people money for putting advertising under their skin reveals an unacceptable view of humanity from a government minister.” Gewessler defended the scheme, replying that the tattoos were offered only during daytime, when festival-goers were less likely to be intoxicated, and the tattoo artists ensured that every recipient was over 18.


Pay to Stay Away

Vermont’s Middlebury College, which is experiencing an enrollment boom, is offering $10,000 to upperclassmen to delay their education in order to ease overcrowding (Fox News, Aug. 1). The unusual pay-to-delay offer comes as the small, liberal-arts school is bursting at the seams. Middlebury typically has 2,500-2,600 students, but enrollment this fall could be upward of 2,845. The surge is not caused by the incoming freshman class of 600 but by returning students who took time off during the COVID-19 pandemic. The school is making the pay-to-delay offer to the first 30 juniors and seniors who opt to take a leave of absence for this year’s fall and winter terms. Officials previously dealt with surges by offering study-abroad opportunities, including a $2,000 travel stipend, and by converting nearby properties, including hotels, into student housing.


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