Some emojis may get lost in translation, and kids are actually being getting into trouble for using them in ways that simply seem threatening. A 12-year-old girl in Fairfax, Virginia, has found that out the hard way!
The girl, whose name was not released, was arrested and charged with making a threat to her school as well as computer harassment after she created a post on Instagram that police believed to be threatening. The post was uploaded in December, and used the gun, knife, and bomb emojis, and read in part: “Killing… meet me in the library Tuesday.”
Someone soon reported the post to police who traced the IP address back to the home of the young girl, who is a student at Lanier Middle School. After police confronted her, the girl admitted to creating the post, but it has not been reported why she made it in the first place. According to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Fairfax County schools said the alleged threat was deemed “not credible.”
The girl’s mother, who also remains anonymous, told reporters that her child had “never been in trouble before,” but that she had recently been a victim of bullying. “I don’t think it’s a case where there should have been charges,” she said. Her daughter was scheduled to make her first appearance in juvenile court on the charges at the end of the month, but, because the hearings aren’t open to the public, it’s unknown if the case has already been resolved.
This isn’t the first time that emojis have gotten kids caught up with the police. Last year, a teenager in New York City was charged with making a terrorist threat after posting a message on Facebook that read “N—a run up on me, he gunna get blown down,” followed by a police officer emoji as well as three gun emojis. A grand jury later declined to indict the teen.
This emoji issue is a battle of free speech and also context, something that social media lawyer Bradley Shear believes will continue to be a problem in the future. “These cases are only increasing. The more people are using their cell phones and posting on the Internet, the more emoji will creep up as evidence in cases,” he said to Mashable. “It really comes down to what’s surrounding the matter. When someone sends an emoji, it can mean a whole bunch of different things.”