Emoji are a rapidly growing way to communicate, popular among preteens and teenagers in part because adults have no hope of understanding what an eggplant, a knife, and a smiley-face mean in context. Unfortunately, some adults are police, and that means a 12-year-old girl might be headed to jail thanks to emoji.
The trouble started when the Fairfax, Virginia, girl posted an Instagram message filled with bomb, knife, and gun emoji and the words “meet me in the library Tuesday.” As you might guess, that didn’t go over very well with school authorities, and she was swiftly picked up. If that sounds like a threat, well, it was, but the idea was to get another girl in the school in trouble. The question becomes whether it should have been interpreted as a threat because of the clip art.
This isn’t the first time the police have reacted, and potentially overreacted, to emoji. The problem, at least from a legal perspective, is the context. If a police officer reads the words “I am going to hunt you down and murder you,” immediately followed by a winky face, they’re essentially stuck making a judgement call as to whether that’s a genuine threat or just a hyperbolic joke. Especially if the officer decides it’s better safe than sorry, people might find themselves in jail, smiley face or not.
The good news is that now that Facebook is on the emoji train and the turd emoji was the most popular “word” of 2014, maybe they’ll stop being hip and kids today will find something new to aggravate adults. Hey, when all else fails, preteens, there’s always pig Latin.
(Via Washington Post)