Technology and the internet have opened up all kinds of amazing and incredible doors for everything from culture to commerce, but they’ve also given new weapons to people with malicious intentions.
From “swatting”, where people will call in an anonymous tip to local police in order to get swat teams showing up at the houses of streamers while they’re broadcasting (An incredibly foolish, super illegal, and very dangerous “prank), to your run of the mill schoolyard bullying, to full-on cyber stalking and harassment. It’s easier to do evil things to people when you aren’t face to face with them, but it’s also easy to forget that your actions online can have real world consequences.
Kurt Eichenwald is a journalist who has written for a number of large publications such as Vanity Fair and the New York Times. You can do a quick Google to see some of his articles and claims that have caused controversies over the years, we’re not hear to dissect his journalistic integrity or to debate why somebody decided to attack him online.
Kurt has been open about his Epilepsy over the years, even winning a journalism prize from the Epilepsy Foundation of America for his work on the topic, despite warnings from his doctor to keep it a secret.
“The doctor warned me – and so did members of my family soon afterward – that if I did not keep my epilepsy a secret, people would fear me and I would be subject to discrimination,” Kurt revealed.
People who disagree with Kurt’s opinions and articles have been targeting him, and one Twitter user managed to send him a gif that allegedly caused Kurt Eichenwald to go into a seizure.
This goes far, far beyond a “prank”, this user was supposedly using Twitter as a weapon with the explicit intention to cause harm to another person in the exact way that they’re vulnerable. This user couldn’t debate his points or write his own article to refute what he disagreed with, instead he used technology as a weapon.
An investigation into his Twitter account revealed messages he had sent to other uses saying things like:
“I hope this sends him into a seizure,”
“Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,”
“I know he has epilepsy.”
If you take the attacker at his word, he had very malicious intentions by sending this Tweet. It raises questions like whether or not we consider a Tweet to be a deadly weapon in a context where said Tweet could actually kill someone, or if sending a Tweet can land someone in prison for attempted murder.
If you send someone with epilepsy an image with the intention of hurting them, and they end up dying, are you a murderer?
Our laws still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to technology that people couldn’t even conceive of when they were written.
The man who sent the Tweet has been arrested by the FBI, and we’ll see how it all plays out in court, some very important and interesting precedents could be set here.