Apparently, yes—as a federal judge has just ruled in a securities fraud lawsuit by investors targeting an alleged pump-and-dump scheme of a “meme stock.”

Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, and its associated SEC Rule 10b-5, are the central provisions of federal securities law applicable to stock trading in the secondary market. The Rule makes it unlawful “[t]o make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading … in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.”

In the case, the question was whether the defendant’s tweeting of a moon emoji could support a claim under the Rule. The investors contend that the defendant tweeted this emoji to indicate to the market that he and his company were bullish on the stock—while the reality was that they were then planning to quickly liquidate their holdings—in a modern version of the classic pump-and-dump scheme.

The defendants did not contest that an emoji can constitute a “statement” under the Rule, but instead argued that emojis cannot be actionable for lack of a defined meaning. Thus here, “there is no way to establish . . . the truth . . . of a tiny lunar cartoon.” (Under the Rule, a statement must be capable of being objectively determined false (or at least misleading) before liability can attach.)

The court disagreed. It held that while emojis are symbols, people use them to communicate. And like language, while they can be ambiguous, their meaning can be understood through context. These particular defendants have a history of involvement in the “meme stock” phenomena—and within that community, “moon emojis are associated with the phrase ‘to the moon,’ which investors use to indicate ‘that a stock will rise’.” Thus, the emoji could be fairly understood by investors as a bullish sentiment. Coupled with allegations of defendants’ supposed true intent to liquidate their holdings, a claim under the Rule was sufficiently stated.