10 Mar Girl charged after allegedly posting message with hostile emojis
On behalf of Jack B. Rubin, PA posted in Internet Crimes on Thursday, March 10, 2016.
If you send and receive text messages, you have likely seen what are called “emojis,” which are small cartoon-like symbols that are used as shorthand to communicate ideas. Emojis are used by millions of people as a means to accentuate posts, texts and messages. While emojis are typically used for playful purposes, recently there has been concern that they are also used as a means to convey threats.
In fact, recently in Fairfax, Virginia, a 12-year-old middle school student was charged with computer harassment and threatening her school after she allegedly posted an Instagram message that contained a combination of words and emojis that were considered menacing. The post contained bomb, gun and knife emojis, along with the word “Killing” and a short message.
A search warrant revealed that the girl acknowledged having posted the message, which was in another student’s name. According to the girl’s mother, the girl sent the message as a response to having been bullied in school. A Fairfax County school spokesman stated that the alleged threat was not considered credible. The girl has to appear in Juvenile court at the month’s end to face the charges.
This story demonstrates the seriousness with which authorities will take threats sent via the Internet, even those punctuated with seemingly benign little images. In fact, similar charges have been levied against people in other states as well. In some cases, courts have been wrestling with how to interpret the intent behind the use of emojis in messages deemed as potentially threatening.
Emojis are just the latest wrinkle in Internet-based communications, yet the issue of threatening messages is nothing new. It is very easy to get caught up in a conflict and hit send on a message that may overstate your intent. What’s more, it’s also possible that someone may post a threat that is attributed to you.
In either case, if you are ever charged with sending threatening messages via the Internet, a Maryland criminal defense attorney could help you build a strong defense. The attorney may be able to demonstrate that you were not responsible for the threats or that your intentions behind the messages were misinterpreted.