Going to prison for 8 months for sending an emoji threatening message

Emoji is the day the port has become popular and widely used, but it's time for us to seriously consider the role of these symbols in the legal field in the world.

Currently, emoji has been a feature too familiar to technology users. These icons appear everywhere, from text messages, emails, to popular social networking platforms. Emoji is likened to an accessory that reduces seriousness or stress in the message.

Because of its simplicity, there are many emoji cases that are overused. Or a recent study shows that the use of emoji in work emails can reduce the focus and cognitive ability of readers.

However, in the legal field, emoji is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. According to recent reports, the use of emoji poses challenges for lawyers, judges and legislators in some countries around the world. This tool is becoming increasingly important and is considered a complete form of writing instead of just ordinary jokes or decorative accessories.

When emoji become "terrorist" weapon

Perhaps the biggest problem that emoji bring about is causing misunderstandings. Many messages containing emoji will make readers feel confused, do not know the sender is trying to mitigate, announce or amplify some crime threat.

For example, in New Zealand, a judge had to personally consider the role of the emoji in a Facebook message that a man sent to his ex-lover: "Then I will pay giá". After concluding that this man will "retaliate" for his former mistress, the judge immediately sentenced him to 8 months in prison on charges of harassing others.

A similar incident happened in France in 2016 when the Court sentenced a young man to threaten an ex-girlfriend with a text message on a smartphone. This message contains a gun-shaped emoji and is considered a "deadly threat in the form of images". The court sentence was set at 6 months in prison and compensation of up to 1,180 USD.

The US is no exception when cases of emoji abuse as a threatening weapon still occur regularly. In Virginia state in 2015, a high school student was accused of harassing and intimidating staff at the school. Specifically, this girl has repeatedly posted on Instagram with violent "smelly" emoji (like guns, knives or bombs). For example: "Kill 🔫. See me at the library next Tuesday 🔫 🔪 💣 ”. This female student herself spoke out that she never intended to intimidate anyone, but messages like that were just a joke.

In the same year, another 17-year-old boy in New York was also accused of terrorist threats when posting on his Facebook fanpage 3 emoji guns pointed at an emoji police. Prosecutors have relied on many factors to close his charges, including:

- Identify the victim object (police)

- Continuous use of emoji gun

- Set the emoji weapon close to the police emoji

- Many other students posted similar messages that same day

However, the jury still failed to prosecute the accused because it was impossible to determine whether his post actually had a criminal intent.

Some other cases are clearer and can immediately confirm that emoji users are having criminal intentions. For example, a female student posted on Twitter: "No one is safe 💯. Want to check me 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 You're crazy, I'm crazy too, let's shoot each other to death ”. This girl was unable to convince her post to be a joke and subject to legal punishment.

Or another mission in Spartanburg, South Carolina county, the defendant had attacked the victim before and even sent a threatening message with only 3 emoji: "👊🏻 👉🏽 🚑" implies he will hit the victim until when I have to be admitted to a new hospital.

Not surprisingly, the above cases of emoji abuse come from those who are still in adolescence. After all, the main audience that media and social networks target is young people.

Whether violence or not, timely action is still the most important thing

Earlier this year, a judge in the Supreme Court of Queensland faced a seemingly familiar problem that was extremely difficult: Should the property of a lost man be given to his wife or younger brother and his grandson.

The reason why this judge was having a hard time because in an unsettled message from this man wrote would leave the house and the pension part for him and his younger brother. At the end of the message he even wrote "My Will" with a smile on his face. The judge said that this informal, non-serious nature of the "will" shows that it is not a valid intention of the deceased.

This is one of many difficult cases in determining the role of emoji. Does the smiley emoji reduce the seriousness of a will? Violent emoji like guns and bombs can really mean harassment, even terrorism? It is difficult to confirm.

Questions like this require us to determine the criteria for evaluating information transmitted via emoji. Emoji can be used to replace text in some cases where there is no appropriate language to describe actions or words. However, finding the specific meaning of the emoji in each case relates to the subjectivity of the sender, such as whether they want to tease, ironically or intentionally give a special message to the recipient. . Moreover, different groups of people will understand the emoji according to different meanings they have agreed upon beforehand.

Perhaps we need to build a "separate legal space" to be able to create the clearest standards of integrity and alignment in the relationship between emoji and the meaning they bring. From there, we can develop a grammar program that allows us to explain the meaning of these symbols. With the number of emoji users now increasing, this is becoming more urgent and necessary than ever.