Cyberbullying Causes Seizures: Man Sued for Assault
Cyberbullying is a massive problem that is only becoming worse. People have easy access to the Internet, and they have a certain level of anonymity, or at least distance from the people
they are bullying. This has given rise to many cruel people who are attacking others online. There is no shortage of threats and cruelty being spewed online by those, who may or may not be able to follow through with their threats in the actual world. Death threats, threats to attack people in the street or in their home, sexual assault threats and countless others happen all the time.
A New Kind of Danger
An “evolution” of cyberbullying surfaced recently. A user on Twitter named John Rivello sent a GIF to another Twitter user named Kurt Eichenwald, who was a senior writer for Newsweek and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Rivello knew that Eichenwald was epileptic, and the GIF that he sent had a strobing pattern to it. A message was included with the GIF that said, “You deserve a seizure.”
This actually did cause the victim to have a seizure.
Rivello sent direct messages to other users on Twitter talking about his intentions for the strobing GIF he sent to Eichenwald, telling people things like “I know he has epilepsy”, and “Spammed this at Eichenwald let’s see if he dies.” There are also allegations that Rivello had been researching epilepsy seizure triggers before he sent the message.
Strangely, the federal charges that had been brought against the perpetrator in this case were dismissed by the judge. He does still face a single charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. This charge in Dallas County also has a hate crime enhancement to it.
In addition, Eichenwald sued Rivello claiming “battery and intentional infliction of bodily harm.” The intentional infliction of bodily harm charge was dismissed by the judge, despite the fact that Rivello literally said he was hoping to cause bodily harm to the victim in this case. However, the battery case is allowed to proceed according to U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar.
This is because even though there was not physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator, the battery claim could be of an amorphous nature. In Texas, they have allowed loud noise, electrical shocks, and secondhand smoke to be considered battery, so they allowed the light from the GIF to be considered capable of causing battery. There is little doubt that Rivello really did want to cause harm – and he succeeded. However, it’s unknown exactly how this case is going to play out.
Laws for Cyberbullying Need to Be Improved
There are some laws that are being put in place to help deal with these types of threats. However, cyberbullying is not going to vanish overnight, and more and harsher punishments are likely needed for people who are engaging in this behavior. One of the problems seems to be the fact that cyberbullying is still considered a rather new problem, and the laws are notoriously slow to change and evolve.