Social Media

Arrest Made In Seizure-Inducing GIF Case

The FBI has arrested a man who allegedly tweeted a seizure-causing GIF at a epileptic journalist.

Social Media
Photo Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso
Mar 17, 2017 at 2:12 PM ET

A man has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly tweeting a GIF of flashing colors at an epileptic journalist.

Kurt Eichenwald, a senior writer for Newsweek who can be … confrontational … on Twitter, said on Friday that an arrest was made in the case. Last December, someone with the Twitter handle “@jew_goldstein” tweeted a GIF at Eichenwald with flashing lights and the words “you deserve a seizure” on it. Eichenwald has epilepsy, which he publicly reveal a decade ago as the reason why he forgot he gave hundreds of dollars to a man who was involved in a child pornography ring in the course of his reporting for a New York Times article.

Half an hour after the GIF was tweeted at Eichenwald, someone purporting to be his wife tweeted from his account that the GIF had indeed caused Eichenwald to have a seizure and that the police would be contacted.

Many scoffed at this, believing that it was not possible for a tweet to be a criminal offense. Some even sent more flashing light GIFs at Eichenwald even as he pressed charges and prepared a civil lawsuit against the unknown Twitter account. Vocativ spoke with a lawyer, Keith Lee, who said that it may seem strange, but a criminal case for assault could be made against @jew_goldstein — even if Eichenwald did not have a seizure after all.

Lee wasn’t sure that a civil lawsuit would be successful, but wondered if Eichenwald was using pre-suit discovery motions to compel Twitter and internet service providers to reveal @jew_goldstein’s true identity. In the end, that didn’t matter. Eichenwald withdrew the lawsuit after, he said, @jew_goldstein was identified by other means.

On Friday, a triumphant Eichenwald engaged in a short tweetstorm about the arrest — and warned that other arrests may well follow. Eichenwald said several law enforcement agencies were involved in the case against @jew_goldstein, from the Dallas Police Department to the Department of Homeland Security.

The FBI, which confirmed an arrest was made to Gizmodo, has yet to release the alleged true name of @jew_goldstein, nor which charges he faces.