Emojis are used by millions of netizens worldwide, but for a middle school student in the US, the wrong choice of emojis got her in trouble with law enforcement authorities.

A 12-year-old from Virginia in the US posted a message on Instagram in December, where she wrote “killing”, “meet me in the library Tuesday”, followed by gun, knife and bomb emojis. Soon the authorities were at her door, as she was charged with issuing a threat against the school, Fox News reported.

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While such cases are on the rise, police argue that these symbols of the popular internet language, are increasingly being used to stalk, threaten and defame people. Although the police and courts are struggling to decide how to treat such messages, the incident cannot be taken lightly given shootings in schools across US.

As soon as the resource officer at Sidney Lanier Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia came to know of the message, students were interviewed and an emergency request was sent for identifying the IP address, which led to the 12-year-old being tracked.

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She admitted to sending the message and said that she did it under another student’s name. The mother of the girl said that she posted the message in response to bullying at school, and she had never been in trouble at school, indicating that there was no reason to charge her.

Although such posts can just be teenage angst, the US police are not taking any chances. A 17-year-old from Brooklyn was arrested for posting a Facebook status with a gun pointing at a police officer emoji. Since the teenager had also posted pictures of himself with marijuana and fire arms, they detained him and he was found guilty of all charges except making a terrorist threat, as per a report in The Washington Post.

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In another instance, a man posted several statuses on Facebook threatening to kill his estranged wife, forcing her to flee with her children. 

While the use of emojis in online conversations has opened doors for users to express themselves more effectively, it also poses a challenge for authorities to decide on how to interpret such messages. 

Feature image source: AFP