Girl, 12, Charged With a Crime Over Emoji Use
She posted gun, bomb, knife emojis to Instagram
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2016 2:50 PM CST

(Newser) – With the increasing popularity of emojis, courts sometimes find themselves in the strange position of having to decide whether a bomb emoji is the same as a bomb threat. Such is the case in Fairfax, Va., where a 12-year-old girl faces criminal charges of computer harassment and threatening her school after she posted a message to Instagram in December that included the words "Killing" and "meet me in the library Tuesday" along with gun, bomb, and knife emojis, the Washington Post reports. A school resource officer at Sidney Lanier Middle School learned of that post and others, and after interviewing students and seeking to obtain the IP address associated with the Instagram account, determined the 12-year-old Lanier student made the posts. She admitted to doing it, according to a search warrant, though she posted under the name of another student.

Ultimately, Fairfax County schools deemed the threat "not credible," a spokesperson says, but the girl was still charged. Her mother says her daughter is "a good kid" who's "never been in trouble before," but that she posted the messages because she was getting bullied at school. A judge will ultimately have to determine whether the emojis she used were truly threatening, and the Post notes it's not the first time: A grand jury in New York recently declined to indict a 17-year-old who posted a police officer emoji followed by three gun emojis on Facebook and was charged with making a terrorist threat, and that's just one of several similar cases recently. "I think something is definitely lost in translation," says that teen's lawyer. "These kids are not threatening cops, they are just trying to say, 'I’m tough.' It’s posturing."