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A schoolgirl in the USA is being charged with making threats using emojis and given that where the US leads UK generally follows there is every likelihood that prosecution here is not far away.

The 12 year old girl posts what is alleged to be a harassing and threatening text on her Instagram site last year which included (gun emoji, knife emoji and bomb emoji)

There is an interesting academic argument as to what emojis actually mean. While the images can be seen to depict an emotion or signal the spirit of a message they do not have clear cut definitions however, it is clear that used in a certain way in certain messages they could be perceived as criminal threats under UK law.

Another concern is the criminalisation of children. Are the messages intended to be criminal or were they in fact child’s or naïve behaviour?

There is little doubt however that, as with all postings on social media, one needs to be very careful before pressing the “send” button.

Michael May
Head of Criminal Department
Edwards & Co  

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