While the digital era has introduced several benefits, there are also numerous types of new threats created by technology. Recently, a man in Maryland was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon because the man sent a tweet with an animated image of a strobe light to a journalist with epilepsy. The tweet in question was made by Kurt Eichenwald, and the tweeter in question is alleged to have been motivated by anti-semitic views. Eichenwald has over 300,000 followers on Twitter, has written four books, and been a vocal proponent against President Trump. The tweet in question came the night after the journalist argued with another individual that President Donald Trump had once been admitted to a mental hospital. The poster in question immediately apologized and sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The deadly weapon in question is the use of the electronic device that was used to communicate the electronic device. This image also included an attached message stating the journalist deserved a seizure due to posts made by the journalist.
Due to viewing the image, Eichenwald experienced a seizure that resulted in the journalist falling to the floor and losing control of body and mental functions for a period of eight minutes. It should be noted that not all individuals with epilepsy are photosensitive. The Epilepsy Foundation reports that visual patterns and flashing lights have the potential to cause seizures in 3% of individual with epilepsy. After the event, Eichenwald was also left unable to speak for a period of time and was also left nearly incapacitated for several days. Subsequently, the poster was arrested for cyberstalking.
Eichenwald responded to the event by filing a case in state court. State law enforcement then obtained a warrant to search the poster’s computer. On searching the poster’s computer, law enforcement discovered that the poster’s account contained screenshots from epilepsy.com as well as a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers. Also discovered on the poster’s account were messages like “let’s see if he dies” and “I know he has epilepsy.” Other evidence revealed that the individual’s iCloud account contained a screenshot of a Wikipedia page for the journalist with the journalist’s death date listed as December 16, 2016. It was also discovered that the poster had previously been charged with cyberstalking.
After the event in question, numerous Twitter attacks from others followed with reports estimating that more than 40 individuals had received similar messages that had the potential to cause seizures. Several legal scholars have already argued that the First Amendment defense should not apply to the case because the Tweet in question lacked any expressive value while opposing legal counsel argued that the Tweet should be viewed as the equivalent of sending anthrax through the mail. It remains uncertain exactly how the case will unfold.