Journalist files lawsuit over assault by GIF

Late last year, Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald received a message on his Twitter account that might change how we define assault in the age of online communications.  The message was flashing image that  read”You Deserve a Seizure for Your Posts.”  The epileptic Eichenwald received just that.

The message came from the account @jewgoldstein, which was owned by a John Rivello of Maryland.

In March, a Texas grand jury indicted Rivello, saying that the animated GIF became a deadly weapon when he sent it with the intention of inducing a seizure.  During the investigation, a search warrant turned up evidence that Rivello was aware that Eichenwald is epileptic, even writing in one message, “Let’s see if he dies”.

In addition to the Texas indictment, Rivello is also facing federal charges.

Today, Kurt Eichenwald announced that he is suing John Rivello for “assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and purposeful infliction of bodily harm.”  Eichenwald has pledged that any money awarded to will go towards foundations to the  Epilepsy Foundation and Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy.

According to Eichenwald, Rivello’s actions have spurred similar attempts on his well-being.  On Monday, he shared that, since this incident, at least 90 people have sent him flashing images.

John Rivello is currently out of jail, presumably awaiting trial and, now, court dates related to this lawsuit.

An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.