Journalist Kurt Eichenwald received a tweet that unfortunately triggered his epilepsy and caused him to have a seizure. John Rayne Rivello is being accused of intentionally sending the tweet as an attack, and as a result, a Dallas grand jury ruled that a GIF can be used as a deadly weapon.
Although a journalist for Newsweek and Vanity Fair, eichenwald is based in Dallas. Rivello is a native of Salisbury, Maryland.
This is one of, if not the first time, a GIF has even been deemed a “weapon,” and it is throwing law experts and professionals for a loop. Defense attorney Tor Ekeland said, “I’m unaware of anybody being criminally prosecuted for this. If it’s not the first time, it’s one of the first times this has happened.”
The FBI obtained a warrant for Rivello’s twitter account, and found direct messages that made his intentions and hate rhetoric clear. One of the messages read “I hope this sends him into a seizure.” Another read, “Spammed this at [Eichenwald] let’s see if he dies.”
Rivello is being charged with a federal cyberstalking law that is frequently the target of criticism from advocates of the First Amendment. The law criminalizes using electronic communication “with the intent to kill, injure, harass, [or] intimidate” a victim, but typically, it is used in relation to images (like revenge porn) or speech (like emailed death threats).
Via NBC News