back to article Cool 'joke', bro, you could have killed someone: Epilepsy Foundation sics cops on sick flashing-light Twitter trolls

The Epilepsy Foundation said this week it will report at least 30 miscreants to the cops for sending tweets seemingly engineered to trigger seizures. The non-profit claimed internet trolls last month tweeted animations and videos of flashing and strobing lights using its Twitter hashtags and handle to spark epileptic seizures …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What would the charges be for mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake in a box labelled "shake first" ?

    Put this guy in a cell with Syko who's off his meds

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      What are we supposed to understand here ?

      First you request the cost of sending potentially lethal animals to someone, then you say put people in jail for being intentionally criminal...

      Appears to be a bit contradictory, unless of course there is a subtlety that I didn't quite understand.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        It's called an analogy, methinks

        This "electronic anthrax" is even worse than that. Sending lethal animals over the mail is a targeted attack and might have some kind of justification, at least in the deranged mind of the criminal.

        In the case discussed here, it's pure evil for evil's sake . The only reward the criminals doing this get is the satisfaction of harming other people whose identities they don't even know.

        I disagree with the OP though in regard to the prison sentence. This scum belongs to a high security mental asylum, at least until it can be guaranteed they won't engage in similar behaviour again. That is, probably never.

      2. CT

        Charges = criminal charges, not postage fees?

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. katrinab Silver badge
        Facepalm

        They believe that sending a strobing tweet is equivalent to sending a diseased or dangerous animal in the post. They want to know what sort of punishment that would attract, and use that as guidance for how to punish strobing tweets.

        Seems pretty reasonable to me.

      5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        I read the OP as asking what criminal charges would be brought against a person who used the postal service in such a way - the interence being that similar charges should be brought against someone using the Internet to send similarly potentially life-threatening payload. BICBW

      6. Neil Murphy

        @Khapitain, I think you're misinterpreting the use of the word "charges" here. He means what criminal charges would apply, not what UPS would charge for delivery!

      7. CountCadaver Bronze badge

        I think he meant "charges" in the sense of criminal charges, i.e. what would the offences be when you appeared in court as the police "charge" you with an offence

    2. harmjschoonhoven
      WTF?

      Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

      The ancient Greek did something like that in naval battles. It was called a scorpion bomb. A earthware pot with a scorpion inside was thrown to an adversary trireme. The pot shattered and panic among the rowers was assured.

      At the time it was considered fair play.

      1. ThadiasVonBasterd

        Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

        Naval warfare and checking twitter are quite different though..

      2. Jim Mitchell
        Paris Hilton

        Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

        What. a single scorpion? That doesn't make much sense, most scorpions are relatively harmless, and a single one won't last long among lots of feet.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

          That doesn't make much sense, most scorpions are relatively harmless, and a single one won't last long among lots of feet.

          Considering the oarsmen had bare feet or maybe sandals, it's quite understandable. Scorpions are nasty looking and tossed in a jug (shaken not stirred) on to another ship probably put as much terror into the scorpion as the scorpion caused the crew.

        2. LucreLout Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

          most scorpions are relatively harmless

          It's war. I think we can safely assume they weren't lobbing them so the enemy could adopt a pet.

          and a single one won't last long among lots of feet.

          Most rowers would have been barefoot, so knock yourself out - you go stand on it.

      3. phuzz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

        Generally in warfare it's considered 'fair play' to kill people, but for some strange reason it's frowned upon off the battlefield.

      4. Cris E
        Trollface

        Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

        As was slaughtering captives, raping women, selling children, salting fields and DNS hijacking. Those Greeks could be real ******s sometimes.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

          Be fair -- they never did any DNS hijacking.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: mailing a rabid bat or rattlesnake

            Only because nobody ever suggested naming a country "Macedonia"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > tweets seemingly engineered to trigger seizures

    Oh common. You want to punish people because of blinking screens? On what legal grounds? You might as well punish people who write sad stories because this could be lethal for suicidal people. Or put developers of 90s games into prison. I'm sure I have never seen a game where you could read "this could cause epilepsy".

    All Jokes aside, this is the wrong way. People have to take responsibility for their own actions, so if you you can't stand even a slight flashing light you should consider not using the internet (especially twitter) at all. Or if you really have to, use a mobile phone.

    1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

      It's the targeted nature that's the problem.

      Someone might have notifications set during Epilepsy Awareness Month for tweets with certain tags, so would be more likely to be exposed to such seemingly dangerous tweets.

      This type of mindset is not far different from the twats who decided to moon a sexual violence awareness march the other day - people with absolutely no respect for others' feelings and problems.

      And as for your last point, depriving people of freedom just because they have a disability is a very outdated opinion and shows your overall lack of sensitivity.

      We should be working towards allowing anyone to do anything and everything they are capable of doing, not putting artificial barriers in their way, such as "don't use twitter because there's nasty people on there who only want to do you harm" - remove the nasty people, not stop others fun because of the nasty people.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        One might wonder if there's some form of web-plugin that prevents/reduces the risk of coming across such strobing animations.

        I'm certainly not trying to imply that what happened was at the very least irresponsible, if not downright dangerous, but at least there are some tools(*) out there to help photosensitive epileptics

        (*) YMMV as to the efficacy of any of them, I'm not endorsing them, and the one I link to has one shit review and no positive reviews

    2. anonanonanon

      Consider not using the internet? What world do you live in?

    3. BigSLitleP Silver badge

      "I'm sure I have never seen a game where you could read "this could cause epilepsy"."

      Then you weren't paying attention as it was in most of the game manuals since the early 90s.

      Also, for the "on what grounds" part, this person was targeting a group of individuals in order to cause harm........

      Come on (not "common", notice) man, engage brain before fingers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Comes up on the boot screen of a PS4 as well.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Also in the preamble / disclaimer shown onscreen when loading just about every game produced in the last 10 years.

    4. d3vy Silver badge

      Did you miss the bit where many people don't know they have photosensitive epilepsy until they have a seizure?

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Did you miss the bit where many people don't know they have photosensitive epilepsy until they have a seizure?

        "

        True of many things. Most people don't know they have a nut or bee sting allergy until they have a (possibly fatal) reaction. However anyone who sets out to deliberately produce any serious & harmful reaction in someone else without their consent is guilty of a criminal offence regardless of whether the act in question is capable of producing such a reaction in that person.

        If I shoot a person in the chest with a .22, I don't get off a charge of attempted murder because unknown to me the victim was wearing a kevlar jacket and so my act had in fact no chance of hurting them. Conversely If I shoot someone in the head with what I believed to be a harmless blank and the person dies because I was ignorant of the fact that the shockwave from a blank is just as deadly as a bullet at close range, I am not guilty of a crime.

        As another pair of examples - if I buy talcum powder believing it to be heroin, I am guilty of a crime. But if I buy heroin believing it to be talcum powder, I am not guilty of a crime. Whether such a story is believed by a court is of course a different matter.

        It is the intent, not the outcome that matters.

        1. Anonymous Tribble

          "Conversely If I shoot someone in the head with what I believed to be a harmless blank and the person dies because I was ignorant of the fact that the shockwave from a blank is just as deadly as a bullet at close range, I am not guilty of a crime."

          Yes you are. It's called Manslaughter. You did not intend to kill them, but you caused their death. You may get off with a light or suspended sentence.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            "

            Yes you are. It's called Manslaughter.

            "

            Sorry, no. Manslaughter requires that the accused either knew or should have been reasonably expected to know that the act in question was dangerous or reckless. I chose the example with care, because it actually happened.

            The case hinged upon the question of whether the accused should "reasonably have known" that a blank would cause harm. This was a professional actor who had plenty of experience of shooting guns loaded with blanks at other actors - it was common practise in the industry. It was decided that it was not a reasonable expectation of a person with such a background to have known that doing the same at close range was dangerous.

    5. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Facepalm

      You are the originator of said tweets and I claim my five pounds.

    6. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I'm sure I have never seen a game where you could read "this could cause epilepsy".

      There - FTFY, because it's on literally every game that could conceivably do so, and has been for some significant time. Usually, it's on a page in the game instructions, or on the packaging, or on a loading screen, along with other disclaimers, and things like WEEE regulations statements, age ratings, etc. etc.

      If you've not seen it, might I suggest that you are suffering from some ultra-rare sort of photosensitive epilepsy that triggers when you see such warnings and causes you to have a very specific seizure that causes you to hit the keyboard in exactly the right way to spout nonsense on the internet. That, or you're an idiot who has not been paying attention.

    7. BGatez Bronze badge

      You're a f***ing moron- IMHO

    8. Stevie Silver badge

      Obvious Troll ...

      ... is Obvious.

      Do Not Feed.

    9. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      The key ingredient is *intent*. For most offences the act itself (actus rea) only becomes a crime if the actor had malicious intent (men rea).

      In law, *anything* that was carried out with the intent to harm someone who did not consent to such harm constitutes an assault. Yes, even merely causing a screen to flash.

      Giving someone you know has a nut allery a peanut butter sandwich might even get you charged with attempted murder.

    10. kmedcalf

      "I'm sure I have never seen a game where you could read "this could cause epilepsy"."

      Bugs Bunny here... Of course not, you maroon, because the game cannot cause epilepsy. It may, however, cause an epileptic to have a seizure.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think it's kinda funny how every answer is either an insult ("you're a moron", "you're a troll") or about splitting hairs ("every game has a warning about epilepsy, therefore everything you said is wrong") while nobody actually added a substantially comment about the two main points:

      1.) There are no legal grounds to sue somebody because of blinking lights.

      2.) People have to take responsibility for their own actions, even more so if they have a severe disorder. In this case (epilepsy) you could use a plugin, simply avoid content of people you don't know or take other measures (i.e. use a mobile phone which has a small screen). It's not that hard.

      1. Hawkeye Pierce

        @Anonymous Coward (aka moron/troll)

        I downvoted you for your idiotic comment but didn't feel the need to add a "you're a moron" post so left that to everyone else. But given that you've come back for more, let me directly respond to your two main points:

        1) Yes there are legal grounds. I don't know if you're in the UK but you'd find similar in every country to the Malicious Communications Act 1988 which details the offence of "sending letters etc. with intent to cause distress or anxiety". Other cases in the UK have resulted in successful prosecutions under the offence of causing Actual Bodily Harm which includes psychological injuries.

        2) People also have to take responsibilities for their own actions if they deliberately and with intent, cause or may reasonably cause, harm to others. It is completely unreasonable to expect someone to avoid using the internet for fear of what they might see. It is NOT completely unreasonable to expect someone to avoid intending to cause harm to another person.

      2. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

        I didn't call you a moron, I just pointed out the error of your post and in doing so answered the two points you raised here.

        Clear you indeed are a moron...

    12. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Or put developers of 90s games into prison."

      After the events of a certain 1990s Pokemon episode, where a couple of Japanese TV producers almost DID go to prison, games developers and cartoon producers were _extremely_ careful to stay away from certain flash rates and colour combinations.

      https://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/18/world/tv-cartoon-s-flashes-send-700-japanese-into-seizures.html

      This was kind-of known before 1997 (7Hz strobes were known to trigger some people back in the 80s when I was playing with lighting and many pieces of hit had lockouts or warnings to avoid particular ranges of flash frequencies) but became a major study after that event because it was found that a lot of people were set of who previously showed no sensitivity to flashing would get triggered by flashing colours.

      And yes, if you setup flashing lights which injure people - even unintentionally, you CAN go to jail in many countries.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    This is another reason why autoplaying media in a browser is a bad idea. The browser makers have done work to stop audio and video playing automatically but other animations such as GIFs still autoplay.

    1. kmedcalf

      Unless you turn that off.

    2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Yes, no worse than some of the ads.

  4. macjules Silver badge

    Solution?

    Perhaps EF might commission an app that scrapes Twitter but uses AI to detect and remove strobing effects?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Solution?

      "AI" is putting it a bit strongly, all you need to do is to check the change in brightness between frames.

      Until the arseholes start using gifs where the average brightness stays the same, but it still flashes, so instead chop the image into 10x10px chuncks and compare the brightness of those.

      And so on until it becomes easier to create a model of the part of the brain that is photosensitive, and expose that to the gif.

      1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
        Boffin

        Re: Solution?

        It's the color patterns that cause issues; no change in brightness needed.

  5. JulieM Silver badge

    Client Problem

    The difference between sending a poisonous animal through the post and posting an animated image on Twitter is, the poisonous animal always was a poisonous animal; but the animated image is just a bunch of zeros and ones that *could* be interpreted in a manner dangerous to certain individuals (but needn't be).

    Why not just fix the client not to show the flashing images if the user so chooses?

    Then the trolls can send what they like, and everyone's happy. Like the person who sent me that welding video once in the hope of hurting my eye. Newsflash: My cheap monitor does not actually produce any UV light .....

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Client Problem

      The difference between sending a poisonous animal through the post and posting an animated image on Twitter is, the poisonous animal always was a poisonous animal; but the animated image is just a bunch of zeros and ones that *could* be interpreted in a manner dangerous to certain individuals (but needn't be).

      I think it's a targeted attack in the same way as sending a poisonous animal. Or replacing the glitter in a glitterbomb with ground peanuts and sending it to a nut allergy's mailing list. Only real difference is this is an attack that can be performed 'virtually' by crafting an animation intended to affect people with photosensitive epilepsy.

      Why not just fix the client not to show the flashing images if the user so chooses?

      Easier said than done, ie disabling all autoplay & animated gifs can be non-trivial depending on browser, and how determined ad/attack slinger is at bypassing your preferences.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Client Problem

        "Why not just fix the client not to show the flashing images if the user so chooses?"

        You didn't read all the way to the end did you?

        Not everyone who is sensitive to strobing effects is aware of the fact until they have a seizure... Which (one assumes) is a little late for toggling gifs off in the browser.

        1. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: Client Problem

          The word for that is "Unlucky".

          I'm not expecting for there to be a sinkhole outside my front door, or for a high-speed car chase to take place while I'm halfway across a pelican crossing with the green figure lit.

          If someone is genuinely unaware they are sensitive to flashing images, that sucks; but it doesn't mean they are not just as likely to be set off by anything else -- even a bus going past a fence, if the sun is low in the sky and at the right angle.

          1. Mephistro Silver badge

            Re: Client Problem

            "I'm not expecting for there to be a sinkhole outside my front door..."

            You'd probably have a different opinion if someone was covering the street in front of your home with camouflaged sinkholes, just for fun.

            The gist of it is that someone is intentionally trying to cause harm to innocents. If you are OK with that, I'd suggest you look for professional help asap.

        2. j.bourne

          Re: Client Problem

          True, in which case the same person (who has never had a seizure) is unlikely to avoid other sources of flashing lights or be specifically following some epilepsy hashtag on twitter. They're going to find out at some point though - by witnessing a strobing light somewhere.

          That aside, for those that are aware that they have a problem wouldn't they already have animations and auto-play videos disabled on whatever browser they are using to follow twitter?

      2. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Client Problem

        Easier said than done, ie disabling all autoplay & animated gifs can be non-trivial depending on browser, and how determined ad/attack slinger is at bypassing your preferences.
        That's the real problem: Proprietary client software written for the benefit of the advertisers, not the users. They think they know better than users and it's more important to flash their advert in a user's face than to respect that user's wish not to have flashing images on their screen.

        The fact that it's taken people actually getting hurt by unwanted flashing images is the real indictment. Some ad firm probably did the maths and worked out they could afford to suppress the few genuine cases they trigger, and the government are cool with all this because even though the advertisers are evading their taxes, the sheep buying the advertised products will have to pay VAT on them.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Client Problem

          The fact that it's taken people actually getting hurt by unwanted flashing images is the real indictment. Some ad firm probably did the maths and worked out they could afford to suppress the few genuine cases they trigger..

          Depends. The 'legit' advertisers, ie those regulated and easy to fine are aware of the issue. Hence warnings that content might include strobing/flashing images. Same with things like subliminal imaging. This case, someone decided to weaponise it for the lulz and deliberately target a group that's known to be especially sensitive, and can suffer real harm.

          So a hefty book should be thrown at the perps. Or stick'em in an anechoic chamber, apply strobes and alternate loud bursts of white & pink noise.. Which for pretty good reasons is considered torture & thus not a done thing..

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Client Problem

            "Or stick'em in an anechoic chamber, apply strobes and alternate loud bursts of white & pink noise.."

            I'd prefer to go for simpler methods. Red hot poker suppositories are highly effective recidivism prophilactic devices amongst repeat offending advertisers. For those who really can't be dissuaded, the ultimate treatment is the gravitationally administered thermite enema.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Client Problem

      Try using that idiotic "bunch of 1s and 0s" defence when the cops arrest you for having child pornography on your PC. It won't work then, and it doesn't work now.

      If deliberately triggering epileptic fits in others for your own amusement isn't an indication of psychopathy, I don't know what is. Attempting to defend such behaviour puts you firmly in the same bucket, labelled "scum".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Client Problem

        Exactly. The file was targeted at a particular person with a clearly intended use, and the intent was obviously to cause damage or injury.

        That smartass, faux-innocent "it's just a load of numbers, it's not *my* fault what someone does with them" argument is something I used to see all the time on Slashdot. In their fantasy idea of the law, those posters were clearly going to go into court with that drivel and the judge would be obliged to let them win even though he- and they- know it's bullshit because it's an incontrovertibly (quasi-)"logical" argument.

        In reality we all know the law doesn't work anything like that and they'd get their asses handed to them in five minutes for such would-be-cleverdickery.

        This is what happens when you get a bunch of people who are narrowly clever in a pedantic, literal way- often beneficial when it comes to technology or science- getting full of themselves and overestimating how far their logically-styled skills and intelligence can be extended outwith fields they know far, *far* less about than they like to imagine.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Client Problem

          Right. Let's try transposing the "ones and zeroes" argument into a different domain: Hey, this loaded gun is just an arrangement of atoms. Under certain conditions it could be dangerous, but that's not my fault.

          This is what happens when you get a bunch of people who are narrowly clever in a pedantic, literal way...

          ObXKCD

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Client Problem

        "If deliberately triggering epileptic fits in others for your own amusement isn't an indication of psychopathy, I don't know what is. "

        It's out there with writing fantasy stories about straight bananas, unelected bureaucrats and various xenophopic rants deliberately aimed at pushing emotional hot buttons, passing it off as journalism, getting it published in major newspapers, then sitting back and watching people believe it.

        I'm sure the same kind of people use to tweak rat tails in the science labs in order to provoke the animals into fighting each other to the death, simply for shits and giggles.

    3. Just Enough Silver badge

      Re: Client Problem

      "Then the trolls can send what they like, and everyone's happy."

      Do we really want to social media platforms to worry about what makes trolls happy?

      1. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Client Problem

        All social media platforms are really bothered about is counting the advertising money. The user-generated stuff that people think is the whole point is just the bait on the hook.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Client Problem

      Hmm, so hacking should be legal too? The same as internet death threats, and libel?

      It's all just 1's and 0's after all...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Client Problem

        Anything should be legal, it's all just quarks and leptons!

        reductio ad absurdum...

  6. Fading
    Joke

    Fully support the jail time...

    As long as Lou Montulli is also sent down for crimes against the 1990's internet.....

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Devil

      Wait, they've killed the <blink> tag, haven't they?

      <blink>See?</blink>

  7. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

    I should note that in the U.S. since it was done over "State Lines and/or International Borders" it would be a felony on par with federal-level mail fraud which means a MINIMUM ONE YEAR sentence in a prison UP TO as much as 10 years for EACH COUNT or felony charge. If more than one person NOTED that flickering/strobing effect and it "injured/affected" them, that is a separate charge/criminal count. Legally, the DA (District Attorney) or state/federal attorney could STACK the charges to ensure a 20 to 40 year prison term BUT in general, the perpetrators will LIKELY get somewhere between 1 to 5 years in prison and probably a $10,000 to $25,000 U.S. fine.

    Since it was targeted SPECIFICALLY towards the Epilepsy website, I'm pretty sure the judge will err on the heavier side of judicial punishment so it will be more on the 3-to-5 year prison term and $25,000 fine side of things. If the perps are REALLY UNLUCKY and they get a NASTY and vindictive DA/state/federal attorney they COULD be looking at a 40+ YEAR PRISON SENTENCE on a highly stacked set of felony-level criminal charges requiring multiple contiguous sentences being handed down!

    Up to 40 years in the pokey for a bunch of blinking lights on a screen! -- Sucks to be them!

    .

    1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

      worse if someone died from it, then that could easily be viewed as murder...premeditated and knowing full well it would cause harm akin to smearing peanut dust at a allergy / anaphylaxsis sufferers convention....

  8. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    Wrong target entirely

    If you have a serious condition - like epilepsy that might be triggered by a blinking screen - you take measures to protect yourself. What happened to your accessibility settings? After 25 years of animated gifs, any platform/browser that doesn't give you the option to prevent crap that moves should be considered defective and ditched.

    Doesn't excuse the alleged behaviour, but surely an organisation working for epileptics should focus more on educating them to protect themselves, and on persuading browser developers to make it easy for them.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Wrong target entirely

      "

      If you have a serious condition - like epilepsy that might be triggered by a blinking screen - you take measures to protect yourself.

      "

      Only if you are aware that you have such a problem (or that it is as serious as it turns out to be).

      There are many plants that are seriously toxic, and contact with them could cause you significant harm. I would not expect you to be taking measures to protect yourself against chance encounters with such plants.

      If someone deliberately sent you such plants, or scattered seeds in your garden with the intention that you come into contact with them when they grow and get hurt, then that person is guilty of a crime.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong target entirely

      > If you have a serious condition - like epilepsy that might be triggered by a blinking screen - you take measures to protect yourself.

      You might want to have a think about what those measures are and then re-assess your own comfortable life in the light of them?

      You can't drive so public transport everywhere. You might have a fit on said public transport so you need a health card easily found otherwise some well-meaning first-aider might pound your sternum into your backbone giving unneeded CPR. You can't operate machinery or do anything safety critical so that career as a surgeon, train driver or even fork-lift driver you dreamed of is gone forever. The anti-seizure drugs have unpleasant side-effects such as uncontrollable shaking so you can't even lounge at home and be a painter. And last but not least, if you collapse at home and give yourself a black eye then everyone thinks your husband is a wife-beater.

      But that's all okay because someone on the Internet has decided that something that blocks flashing Tweets from psychotic cunts intent on doing harm is all that's needed.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Wrong target entirely

        You might want to have a think about what those measures are and then re-assess your own comfortable life in the light of them?

        Sometimes its that comfortable life that suprises you. Case in point.. I used to work near the Grosvenor hotel in Mayfair. Left work late-ish and there was a red carpet across the pavement, ropes and a lot of press. So figured I'd loiter and do some celeb spotting... Which lead to a barrage of flashes, me feeling dazed & confused and understanding why a lot of celebs wear shades.

        That was an odd experience given I do a fair bit of studio photography and never had any issues with flashes before. So went to see the doc, who sent me off for some tests.. In which a doc sanded bits of my scalp for an EEG so they could see what happened when they flashed me. So that confirmed I do have brain activity (contrary to some people's opinion) and I probably wasn't epileptic.

        I've had no problems since, but the experience did make me more sensitive to photosensitivity issues.

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Wrong target entirely

          I seem to be fairly sensitive - not medically, as far as I know, but I can clearly notice and get annoyed by flashes - like walking into a BHF furniture store - they always seem to have sections of old CRT TVs - the refresh rate of those is very noticeable.

          Likewise, doing some Christmas shopping, the glass panels of the escalators in the local shopping centre had been lined with extendable LED Christmas lights, where a chain can be attached to another to lengthen it.

          Given that they were festooned along the sides, covering both the width and the height of the escalator sides, the capacitors in the power converters were not able to do their job of properly smoothing the rectified voltage, leading to the lights all flashing - it was enough to make me dizzy.

          I was in town again last night, and they had been removed. I guess someone complained.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Wrong target entirely

            Given that they were festooned along the sides, covering both the width and the height of the escalator sides, the capacitors in the power converters were not able to do their job of properly smoothing the rectified voltage, leading to the lights all flashing - it was enough to make me dizzy.

            Might be worth asking your GP for a test. It was quite fun (apart from the scalp sanding) and their machine generated a range of images & strobes to see what showed up on the EEG. My doc reckoned I ended up more sensitive due to having been doing a lot of screen time, so a combination of fatigue and eyestrain.

            I also agree about the hazards of LED decoration lights, especially if they're flashing.. and moreso if there's multiple strings flashing at different rates. I think that's due to the high intensity white LEDs, and probably risky for people who are really photosensitive. If it gets too bad, I tend to have a Leatherman in my bag & could use that in self defence.. :p

    3. Anonymous Tribble

      Re: Wrong target entirely

      So you should block every animated GIF just in case a stupid person decides to post one that triggers you?

      I'm married to a photo sensitive epileptic. She usually manages to look away from such images before she can be triggered, as she is aware of her condition. When her friends post images that may be triggering to people on social media she gently reminds them of the damage they can cause and the friends will happily remove the images or put up a warning before they show.

      Not so easy when it is some plonker who thinks it is funny to try and kill people.

    4. terrythetech
      Thumb Down

      Re: Wrong target entirely

      Victim blaming at its worst :(

  9. BGatez Bronze badge

    Considering the toxic nature of twitter today it seems like function following form.

  10. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Lump hammer.

    Hands.

  11. cirby

    Hmm.

    I wonder if there's some clever way to hack video drivers so they reject transitions of more than a certain frequency and contrast...?

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Hmm.

      > I wonder if there's some clever way to hack video drivers so they reject transitions of more than a certain frequency and contrast...?

      Microsoft seem to have managed this in their XBox consoles...

      <ba dum tish>

  12. Jr4162

    Shouldn't the affected turn off autoplay for animations or gifs? Yeah, the jokers that deliberately targeted epileptic users with flashing animations should be punished, but I don't think attempted murder or assault charges are the way. Singapore styling caning would be good start.

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