Twitter disables animated PNG files following attacks against users with epilepsy

Group of attackers sent animated images that could prompt seizures in people suffering from epilepsy.

After a group of attackers bombarded the Epilepsy Foundation’s Twitter account with animated images, the platform has now banned the use of this format of images. The animated images were intended to cause harm by inducing seizures in photosensitive people.

 Twitter disables animated PNG files following attacks against users with epilepsy

FILE PHOTO: People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture. Image: Reuters.

During National Epilepsy Awareness Month in the US, the official handle of the Epilepsy Foundation was sent several tweets and the hashtags were also targeted. These tweets consisted of strobing light effects that can potentially result in seizures for people who suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder.

The attack took advantage of a Twitter bug that enabled them to bypass autoplay settings. It also allowed multiple animated images to be added in a single tweet. Twitter has now decided to ban the animated PNG image (APNG) file format from the platform. It sent out a tweet saying, “We want everyone to have a safe experience on Twitter. APNGs were fun, but they don’t respect autoplay settings, so we're removing the ability to add them to Tweets. This is for the safety of people with sensitivity to motion and flashing imagery, including those with epilepsy.” Although existing content with APNG images will still remain on the platform, only GIFs will animate on Twitter.

People who are photosensitive, if exposed to these strobing lights, could suffer from seizures and that’s exactly what the attackers were planning. The Verge reported that it isn’t clear how many people were affected by this attack. However, the foundation has taken it up with the law enforcement agencies and also filed criminal complaints.

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