Child Faces Criminal Charges After Using Weapon Emojis on Instagram

A message featuring gun, knife, and bomb emojis has landed a Virginia 12-year-old in trouble with police.


David Parry/PA Wire via Flickr

A Virginia 12-year-old faces criminal harassment charges after posting an Instagram message that said "meet me in the library Tuesday" followed by gun, knife, and bomb emojis. A classmate at the student's middle school in Fairfax, Virginia, reported the post to an in-school police officer, who obtained an emergency warrant to find out the IP address associated with the Instagram account. 

It's yet another regrettable example of what happens when we make our schools into mini police-states. From sexting to bullying to bringing contraband items to school, problems that would once have been handled between school administrators and parents are now routinely referred to the police. 

It's also an interesting case from a free-speech perspective. "The case is one of a growing number where authorities contend the cartoonish [emoji] symbols have been used to stalk, harass, threaten or defame people," The Washington Post notes. "And that has left the police and courts wrestling with how to treat a newly popular idiom many still dimly grasp." Emoji, the Post points out, "have no set definition and their use can vary from user-to-user and context-to-context." 

In the Fairfax case, a 12-year-old girl was discovered to be behind the allegedly-threatening messages. Her mom told the Post that her emoji message, which was posted pretending to be another student, was a migsuided response to the child feeling bullied at school. She was charged with computer harassment and making threats against the school, although a spokesman from the Fairfax County School district said the threat was deemed "not credible." 

In January 2015, a Brooklyn teen was arrested for posting "Nigga run up on me, he gunna get blown down" to Facebook followed by a police-officer emoji and three gun emojis. A grand jury eventually declined to prosecute. 

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  1. šŸ™

  2. On the plus side, they got a warrant. Thus proving warrants can work.

  3. Emoji shot to popularity in the United States after Apple included an emoji keyboard on its iPhone in 2011. The advertising company Swyft Media estimates 6 billion emojis and other pictograms are sent each day and a report by an Internet startup Emogi found 92 percent of the online population uses the icons.

    What is wrong with all of you people?

    1. Are you admitting that you are in the 8%?

    2. I only use the poop emoji.

      1. That and the eggplant emoji that looks like a penis are the only worthwhile ones.

        1. So your penis is purple, eh?

          1. "She was charged with computer harassment and making threats against the school, although a spokesman from the Fairfax County School district said the threat was deemed "not credible."

            See ? It's a non credible threat. That means that sanity hasn't yet left the building.

            Everybody calm down. Soon after the police were called, an emergency warrant was issued, the perp was tracked down and waterboarded everyone calmed down and made sure the 12 year old didn't miss any school days because that would have cost the district money for her non attendance.

  4. Reminded me of this story I heard on the morning news:

    Felony charges for an 12 year old putting red pepper in a soda. WTF.

    1. Need to be reminded why our country is so fucked? Read the comments to that story.

      zapper45701 yesterday
      I'm allergic to capsaicin; something of this nature could kill me. I don't know about the teacher's allergies, but the act was definitely an intended threat/attack on her life and health.

      As for these girls, they obviously have problems that need special attention. Their home lives are certainly not able to bring/keep them under control. They need to be very supervised and in a restrictive facility.

      I have no idea of the capabilities of the parents. Some parents work very hard to bring up their children in the best way possible, and yet they fail. It happens. Other parents shouldn't be allowed to be in a room with any child. Some parents are total failures, yet their children succeed. Who knows what motivates children to do what they do?

      Nevertheless, I hope the teacher recovers without too much more trauma. I hope the girls learn to better themselves. Let's hope this behavior is a singular event, and it doesn't continue.

      1. Nobody is allergic to capsaicin taken internally. *Everyone* reacts to it externally.

        1. al?ler?gic - ??l?rjik

          1. Something one finds unpleasant.

          2. A catch-all excuse for controlling other's behavior

          3. A reaction whose symptoms include a blue nose and excessive prudery.

    2. . . . Spiking Teacher's Soda, Sickening Her

      . . .

      Three Florida middle school students are facing felony charges for allegedly poisoning their teacher by spiking her soda with red pepper flakes, authorities said Friday.

      Somebody should tell the authorities that red pepper is not a poison. That you can't poison someone with it even if you shoved multiple hand fulls down their throat.

  5. I don't see anything in the constitution guaranteeing a right to use any emoji you want.

    1. Look, all we're asking for is common-sense smiley control. I don't think that's too unreasonable.

  6. Because ENB provided a delightful photo, but deprived us of alt text, let us have photo caption contest.

    1. "Two Thumbs, Three Butts"

      1. If she's smart she'd come here and claim that the picture *is* a caption.

        If she's really smart, she stopped reading the comments a long time ago.

    2. Use this one weird trick to make your friends cry.

    3. Magnus inherited the house in East Hampton, Constance received the Greenwich Village brownstone, while Roger inherited sole custody of mother's three cats."

    4. A libertarian, a democrat*, and a republican go to the mall . . .

      *Originally typed as "emocrat", which is awesome, before I clicked the "edit" button and fixed it.

  7. "From sexting to bullying to bringing contraband items to school, problems that would once have been handled between school administrators and parents are now routinely referred to the police".

    The above is the main problem. The letter home or the phone call from school took care of this type of thing growing up, actually come to think of it I would have preferred being referred to the police instead of the dreaded letter home over misbehavior at school.

    1. Administrators will avoid making judgement calls whenever possible. If they follow the book to the letter they can't get fired.

  8. I distinctly remember getting a phone call from the neighborhood bully when I was 12. He was politely informing me that he and his buddies were coming over to kick my ass. I told him I would be waiting with a doberman and a 12 gauge.

    I guess I would be going to juvie now.

    1. No, because you did it over the phone. No record of what you said.

      1. True. Never put it in writing.

        1. Never Said Anything

      2. You may beat the rap but you can't beat the ride, and all that. I bet he'd still get suspended over it.

      3. Have you checked with the NSA on that?

  9. Scare them off.

    Unleash the ??snowflake??.

  10. It's kind of a threat. Kind of. Criminal threat? Probably not.

    This shit wasn't a problem when I was a kid. You threaten another kid, and it was he said, she said. They're doing this shit over the internet now, and there's a permanent record of it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    1. Meet me in the library is kind of a threat? I don't get it.

      1. Have you been reading and watching what some of the kids are doing in the library these days?

        1. Watching? No. But, you should tell me where I can watch, so that I know to stay away from there.

  11. Is there a DIAF emoji? Because if I used emojis that would be my favorite.

    1. Not a single one that I can find. You'd have to string [finger pointing at you] [skull] [fire].

  12. the Fairfax County School district said the threat was deemed "not credible."

    Sheesh, that doesn't stop *DHS*!

  13. Emoji, the Post points out, "have no set definition and their use can vary from user-to-user and context-to-context."

    "Bust them all. Let the courts sort them out." 8-(

  14. I was gonna say, "Wait for the day when a kid gets shot to death over sexting or violent emojis; Then, all those anti-spanking, special-snowflake parents can shut the fuck up about other peoples' kids."

    Then I remembered that Tamir Rice is dead and the whole thing just gives me that nauseous, 'kicked in the nuts' feeling.

  15. I have an aversion to severed heads and am triggered by all emoji.

  16. A 12 year old child is dragged into criminal court because of something she typed on her computer.

    I need a drink and the fucker responsible for that needs to hop in a woodchipper jackboots first.

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