A group of unidentified users on Twitter are accused of spreading havoc by posting strobing and flashing lights on the Epilepsy Foundation’s Twitter posts and across several popular epilepsy-related hashtags. The attack was carried out in an effort to induce epilepsy seizures amongst people suffering from photosensitive epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy foundation.
The alleged activity took place in the last month during the National Epilepsy Awareness Month and the Epilepsy Foundation lodged a formal criminal complaint against the unidentified Twitter users this Monday.
“These attacks are no different than a person carrying a strobe light into a convention of people with epilepsy and seizures, with the intention of inducing seizures and thereby causing significant harm to the participants,” said Allison Nichol, Esq., the director of legal advocacy for the Epilepsy Foundation.
The Epilepsy Foundation’s director for legal advocacy further stated that the “reprehensible nature” of the wrongdoers was all the more apparent as the attacks were targeted during the National Epilepsy Awareness Month. It was also reiterated that the foundation was working on cracking down on the offenders.
“The fact that these attacks came during National Epilepsy Awareness Month only highlights their reprehensible nature. The Foundation is fully cooperating with law enforcement and intends to utilize all available avenues to ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable,” said Nichol.
Attacks such as this have been known to occur on social media platforms for a while now. For instance, back in 2016, a journalist suffering from photo-sensitive epilepsy, Kurt Eichenwald, says he was sent into a seizure after a Twitter user named John Rayne Rivello tweeted an animated strobe light to the journalist with a message that read: “you deserve a seizure for your posts.”
Eichenwald revealed that he was attacked by Rivello for his comments against President Trump. Eichenwald had tweeted “I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won’t release medical records.”
After filing a criminal case, Rivello was charged with felony assault and is now expected to plead guilty in January.
The above-mentioned instances draw attention to an important initiative to be taken up by the social media platforms: disabling the auto-play feature for videos and GIFs. As of now, the foundation has cataloged instructions on how users can disable the autoplay feature on social media platforms.
Earlier this year, an independent developer made an Epilepsy Blocker browser extension that aims to protest those who suffer from photo-sensitive epilepsy.