Epilepsy Foundation Goes After Twitter Users Sending GIFs That Trigger Seizures

Epilepsy Foundation Goes After Twitter Users Sending GIFs That Trigger Seizures

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TUESDAY, Dec. 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Criminal complaints against Twitter users who sent strobe GIFs in an attempt to trigger seizures in people with epilepsy have been lodged by the Epilepsy Foundation.

It's going after copycats emulating John Rayne Rivello, who's alleged to have sent a tweet with a strobing GIF that triggered a seizure in journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, the Washington Post reported.

Eichenwald received the seizure-inducing tweet -- which included the words "YOU DESERVE A SEIZURE FOR YOUR POSTS" -- on Dec. 15, 2016 after he posted an unflattering tweet about President Donald Trump.

Eichenwald says he would have died if his wife hadn't walked into the study at their Dallas home and found him, the Post reported.

Rivello, a 32-year-old veteran who lived in Salisbury, Md., is expected to plead guilty to aggravated assault at a scheduled Jan. 31 appearance in a Dallas County district court, and this could be the first of many such cases.

The Epilepsy Foundation said Monday that it's taking legal action against dozens of copycats who sent strobe GIFs to people with epilepsy over a short period of time during National Epilepsy Awareness Month in November, the Post reported.

Rivello's expected guilty plea would give the foundation a legal precedent for such cases.

"These kinds of attacks need to be taken seriously," Allison Nichol, the Epilepsy Foundation's director of legal advocacy, told the Post. "There needs to be a very aggressive response, both by the foundation and by law enforcement. What these people did is incredibly dangerous to people with epilepsy and it just cannot stand."

The foundation has identified at least 30 cases where a Twitter user responded to content on the foundation's page by posting flashing or strobing lights, according to Nichol.

"What they're doing virtually is no different than walking into a convention they know is the Epilepsy Foundation with a strobe light, hoping to cause seizures," Nichol told the Post. "It has the capacity to induce exactly the same harm."

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