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A 12-Year-Old Girl Is Facing Criminal Charges For Using These Emoji

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PHOTO: Jeff Blackler/REX Shutterstock.
A middle school student's choice of emoji just landed her in trouble with the law.

A 12-year-old girl in Fairfax, VA, is facing criminal charges for threatening her school, reports The Washington Post. Police said she posted a message on Instagram in December with gun, bomb, and knife emoji.

The Washington Post says the post read, in part:

Killing 🔫

“meet me in the library Tuesday”

🔫 🔪 💣
According to police, the post was first discovered on December 14 on Instagram. After questioning students, they were led to the 12-year-old student now facing charges.

The search warrant claims the girl admitted posting the messages on Instagram — and did it under the name of another student. She was charged with threatening the school and with computer harassment. She's now awaiting trial in juvenile court.
It may seem far-fetched that emoji are being used in criminal cases, since the symbols are used casually in everyday texting and messaging conversations. But this is only the most recent in a series of cases where authorities believe emoji have been used to stalk, harass, or threaten people.

A grand jury in New York City had to decide whether 👮 🔫 represented a true threat to police officers. And a Michigan judge had to interpret the meaning behind an emoji of a face with a tongue sticking out: :P.

In 2014, British attorney Laura Scaife, author of the Handbook of Social Media and the Law, noted how British courts interpret emoticons in the service of “determining the state of mind of the poster” or “considering if there has been an element of malice” in criminal cases.

Emoji became standard in the U.S. after Apple included an emoji keyboard on its iPhone in 2011. Since then, countless other emoji have been introduced, including Facebook reaction emoji, and, of course, Kimoji from Kim Kardashian.
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