If you thought emojis were all fun and no harm, think again.
Shooting off an emoji could land you with prison time, if you're not careful. Believe it or not, a number of courts have ruled the use of gun emojis can constitute a death threat.
In France, a 22-year-old man was recently sentenced to three months in jail with a 1,000 euro fine — about $1,140 — for sending his ex-girlfriend a litany of (butt-hurt) texts. One message included a gun emoji, according to the Telegraph.
The ex-girlfriend, a minor, reportedly said the image gave her nightmares and made her afraid to go out. Though the defendant's lawyer cast doubt on the idea that a little icon could do so much damage, the court ruled in the ex-girlfriend's favor.
It's not the only case. In late February, a tween in Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with threatening her school, according to the Washington Post. Police got involved after she posted this on Instagram:
In January, 17-year-old Osiris Aritsy had police at his door after posting several messages on Facebook showing police emojis next to gun and bloody needle emojis, according to DNAInfo. Police ended up finding more than 25 grams of marijuana and a .38 caliber handgun at the Brooklyn teen's home.
A grand jury decided to throw out the charges of threatening police, the New York Daily News reported, but Aritsy was not relieved of the gun- and weed-possession charges.
Emojis aren't always used to represent literal weaponry. In popular culture, they're often used to evoke slang phrases. For instance, in "[knife emoji] it rn," the emoji could mean "killing it" — defined by Urban Dictionary as "performing at the highest level."
Emojis are becoming more and more ingrained in our communication — a trend that should inform the way law enforcement approaches certain perceived threats.
We should all still be careful. While a certain phrasing may seem like a joke between you and your friends, when it's posted in a public forum like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or even Venmo, it can be taken out of context and serve as the basis for court action.