Emojis may just be content-free signs that allow users to inhabit discourse without actually saying anything, but they can still totally get you arrested. That’s what happened to Osiris Aristy, a 17-year-old from Bushwick, Brooklyn, who was arrested after posting emojis on his Facebook page that were interpreted by the New York Police Department as threatening violence against cops.
Aristy was under social media monitoring because of his already substantial rap sheet, and posted Facebook emojis including one of a police officer, and another of a gun that appeared to be pointing at the police officer. While the text of Aristy’s Facebook posts is hard to decipher to say the least, statements like “feel like katxhin a body right now” and a photo of himself with a firearm seemed to add to the generally threatening atmosphere created by the emojis.
As noted, Aristy has already had quite a few run-ins with the law, including 12 arrests on weapons charges, robbery, and assault; the arresting officers also found a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and a large amount of marijuana apparently packaged for sale. Meanwhile, the NYPD clearly isn’t taking any chances after last month’s fatal shooting of two police officers by a deranged individual apparently upset about the killing of unarmed civilians by police officers.
The criminal complaint read, in part: “As a result of this conduct, the defendant has caused the informant and other New York City police officers to fear for their safety, for public safety, and to suffer alarm and annoyance.” And an 83rd precinct spokesman told DNAinfo: “You make a threat on the internet, we're going to be watching. We are going to attempt to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
The NYPD has been monitoring social media to combat gangs and uncover other criminal activity for some time now. The police have also blamed social media, in part, for contributing to an increase in gang activity, as rival gangs use it to taunt their rivals and brag about their exploits.