How the Law Responds When Emoji Are the Weapon of Choice

Nearly everyone is familiar with emoji, those popular icons that appear in text messages, emails and social media platforms. Emoji are often used as lighthearted adjuncts to text, or to soften the blow of a message . . .

Perhaps the most troubling use of emoji has come through their use in interpersonal messages where it is unclear whether they modify or amplify a prima facie criminal threat.

In New Zealand, a judge considered the role of emoji in a Facebook message sent by a man to his ex-partner. The man wrote, “you’re going to get it” followed by an aeroplane emoji.

Concluding that the message and emoji generally conveyed that the defendant was “coming to get” his ex-partner, the judge sentenced the accused to 8 months jail on a charge of stalking . . .

The issue has also arisen in several cases in the US. In Virginia in 2015 a high school student was charged with computer harassment and threatening school staff. She had posted several messages to her Instagram account, combining text with emoji (a gun, a knife and a bomb). (Read more from “How the Law Responds When Emoji Are the Weapon of Choice” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.