Middle Schooler Who Posted Gun And Bomb Emojis To Instagram Now Faces Criminal Charges

It's difficult enough trying to decipher simple text messages—it's tough to account for tone and sarcasm—but when you throw emoji into the mix, it takes things to a whole new level. Nevertheless, it's the online language of the day, and one middle school student could end up paying a hefty price for posting the wrong combination of emojis to Instagram.

The 12-year-old student from Fairfax, Virginia, is being charged with threatening her school after local law officials said she posted a message on Instagram containing emojis of a gun, bomb, and knife. Part of her message also used the world "killing" and "meet me in the library," which ultimately prompted an investigation once the school found out about it.

By way of IP address, the investigation led authorities to the 12-year-old student responsible for the seemingly threatening emojis. She admitted to posting the messages on Instagram under the name of a different student and was subsequently charged with threatening the school and computer harassment.


Naturally, the girl's mother has spoken out in defense of her daughter calling her a "good kid." She adds that "she's never been in trouble before. I don't think it's a case where there should have been charges."

Whether or not the charges are valid is something the courts will have to decide. This is relatively new ground for all involved, and the obvious challenge is figuring out what exactly a person was trying to say with emoji. That can often be left up for interpretation. There have been other cases like this already, with attorneys arguing whether or not emojis should be considered evidence.

In one instance, a 17-year-old in New York City posted a message on Facebook that said, "N—a run up on me, he gunna get blown down" with three gun emojis pointed at an emoji of a cop's head. A grand jury decided not to indict the teen. His attorney said something was "lost in translation" and excused the behavior as "posturing" rather than threatening cops.

On the surface, it seems a little silly to be arguing about colorful character combinations, but that's exactly what's happening. And for some kids, they're going to find out the hard way that there are possible repercussions for what gets posted online no matter what the language, even emoji.