A 12-year-old girl in Fairfax, Virginia, posted something to Instagram. Nothing new there. She included a variety of emojis along with her text. Again, nothing unusual about that. What is potentially ground-breaking about her post is that she's been brought up on criminal charges for it—and those charges are largely due to the emojis she chose to use.
Here's a portion of her post, as reported by the Washington Post:
“meet me in the library Tuesday”
🔫 🔪 💣
Without the emojis, the text is pretty tame. "Killing" could have multiple meanings, some of which are harmless. But the emojis gave it a context officials found so concerning they've charged the girl with threatening the school and computer harassment. She's due in juvenile court at the end of the month.
The evolution of Emojis
Since Apple included an emoji keyboard on its iPhones back in 2011, the collection of images has expanded and become commonplace. But a definitive guide for reading and interpreting these symbols is still evolving.
It's a segment of language that is still under construction, even as it's been rapidly adopted by teens. We may be seeing more stories like this one, while we sort out what constitutes a credible threat.
One last thing
In writing this post, I was curious whether the plural of emoji was "emoji" (as in "sushi") or "emojis" (as in "tsunamis"). In attempting to answer my question, I stumbled across this terribly informative article. FYI—It has absolutely nothing to do with gun emojis or the wisdom of charging a 12-year-old girl for using them, but it's a good read nonetheless.