A potentially life-threatening condition believed to affect more than 50 million people is being exploited to abuse users on social media.
A potentially life-threatening condition believed to affect more than 50 million people is being exploited to abuse users on social media.

Cruel social media attack could kill vulnerable Australians

Australian Twitter users with epilepsy have been targeted in a cyber-attack that aimed to inflict seizures.

The attacker shared videos of strobe lights, which can trigger epileptic fits, and tagged the Epilepsy Foundation.

An unexpected surge in electrical activity in the brain can cause seizures in people with epilepsy.

The seizures can cause difficulty breathing, convulsions, loss of consciousness and even death.

Around 250,000 Australians have the condition.

Allison Nichol, the Epilepsy Foundation's director of legal advocacy, said: "Twitter is one of the largest places of public gathering that exists today.

"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."

Around 50 million people across the globe are living with epilepsy, according to the World Health Organisation.

The disease is characterised by repeated seizures, although not all sufferers have this symptom.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month in the US.

This is when the cyber-criminal decided to share images of flashing or strobing lights with the Epilepsy Foundation handle and hashtags.

Presumably, this was a callous and calculated attempt to trigger seizures in some of the Foundations' 33,300 followers.

Complaints have now been filed with law enforcement, and an investigation is underway as the authorities try and track down who was behind the reported 30 attacks.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time someone has taken to Twitter to try to induce seizures in others.

In 2016, Kurt Eichenwald, an author who has epilepsy, was sent a Twitter message containing a strobe light gif and the statement: "You deserve a seizure for your post."

This then triggered an eight-minute-long seizure.

A man named John Rayne Rivello was arrested for the crime three months later.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He said he did it because he didn't agree with Eichenwald's criticism of Donald Trump.

After the initial attack, Eichenwald reported receiving seizure-triggering messages from more than 40 other accounts.

The motives of the recent attacker are unknown.

A Twitter spokesperson told us: "We want people to feel safe on our service.

"We provide people on Twitter with the option of preventing media from autoplaying in their Timelines as well as prevent any gifs from appearing when someone searches for "seizure" in gif search.

"Additionally, if Twitter determines accounts are dedicated to causing offline harm, they will be permanently suspended.

"We're exploring additional options to help protect the people on Twitter from this type of abuse."

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission


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