Twitter is facing questions over why it has failed to remove posts that attempt to cause seizures in people with epilepsy.
In response to a comment from a disabled person with photosensitive epilepsy about disability benefits, a video of flashing images and the word “bozo” was posted by an anonymous user of the social media website.
But after Disability News Service (DNS) lodged a complaint about the post, Twitter said: “After reviewing the available information, we want to let you know [the account] hasn’t broken our safety policies.”
The person also posted the same video in a separate message (pictured), this time accompanied by the words: “For anyone who as epilepsy #epilepsy.”
After consulting with Richard Blaber, the disabled person who was originally targeted, DNS lodged a second complaint with Twitter.
DNS asked Twitter’s press office to comment but had not heard back by noon today (Thursday).
Blaber had not complained about the post himself because his privacy settings mean he only sees posts from people he follows or those who follow him.
But he said: “I’m constantly coming across films and TV shows with scenes involving flash photography and/or strobe effects, with no warning given.
“This is disastrous for those of us with photo-sensitive epilepsy.
“If people on Twitter are aiming videos featuring such phenomena at us, whether deliberately or otherwise, with no warning, that needs to stop, and must be stopped quickly.”
Measures in the government’s online safety bill – which is due for its final stages in parliament next month – could in future offer some protection in such cases.
The bill creates a new offence of deliberately sending flashing images to someone with epilepsy to try to provoke a seizure.
The offence was added to the legislation due to campaigning by Zach Eagling and the Epilepsy Society charity.
Zach started campaigning in May 2020 when he was eight years old and was one of those who had a seizure after targeted online trolling with flashing images following an Epilepsy Society fundraising event.
The main offence in the bill will capture a range of messages, including those sent to multiple people on social media, and more targeted flashing images when the sender knows, or suspects, the recipient has epilepsy.
Another offence will cover showing someone with epilepsy a flashing image on a mobile phone or television screen with the intention to cause them harm.
Social media platforms will have to remove such content once they become aware of it, and if they fail to do so Ofcom will be able to fine them up to £18 million or 10 per cent of their global annual revenue.
Neither the Epilepsy Society nor the government had commented on the Twitter posts by noon today (Thursday).
But a government spokesperson said: “The online safety bill is designed to create a safer digital environment for everyone and introduces robust penalties for those who intentionally inflict harm on people the sender knows, or suspects, has epilepsy through social media.
“That includes a maximum of five years imprisonment or a fine and in some cases, both – sending a clear message that targeting individuals with flashing images will not be tolerated.”
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