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FBI arrests man who allegedly sent a strobe tweet to trigger an epileptic seizure in anti-Trump journalist

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A man who allegedly sent a tweet that triggered an epileptic seizure in journalist Kurt Eichenwald has been arrested according to the FBI.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Eichenwald claimed FBI agents had arrested the man responsible for sending him a strobe light .gif over twitter last December. That .gif allegedly caused Eichenwald to suffer a seizure.

After receiving the strobe image, Eichenwald’s Twitter account sent out a tweet accusing someone with the username “@jew_goldstein” of sending him the .gif image.

Eichenwald provided information about it along with more than 40 similar .gifs from twitter users to FBI investigators.

John Rivello was arrested by the FBI at his Maryland home on Friday, according to Newsweek, where Eichenwald is a senior writer. Rivello, 29, is facing federal charges and is set to appear in federal court in Dallas Monday.

“What Mr. Rivello did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with anthrax spores,” Eichenwald’s attorney, Steve Lieberman, told  Newsweek. “It wasn’t the content of the communication that was intended to persuade somebody or make them feel badly about themselves; this was an electronic communication that was designed to have a physical effect.”

Twitter user @jew_goldstein allegedly tweeted a strobing image to the author and journalist with the message, “You deserve a seizure,” on December 15. Eichenwald had just appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight”  where he discussed some of the negative tweets he had posted about President Donald Trump including his unsubstantiated claim that Trump was in a mental hospital in 1990.

Eichenwald filed a petition trying to get Twitter to disclose the identity of the user, named John Doe in court documents, Newsweek reported.  But the person behind the attack filed a motion to prevent Twitter from revealing the information. But Eichenwald’s attorney announced later that they had figured out the identity of the “assailant.”

According to Newsweek:

The Justice Department released additional details Friday afternoon after Rivello appeared in court. A search warrant found that in direct messages to other Twitter users, Rivello wrote, “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” “Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,” and “I know he has epilepsy.” The search warrant also found screenshots on Rivello’s iCloud account “from epilepsy.com with a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers,” the Justice Department said, and other screenshots related to Eichenwald.

Eichenwald tweeted a press release Friday from the Department of Justice with details on the arrest.

“We’re very gratified that the government has worked hard and promptly to make sure that the person who was responsible for this attack is held to account,” Lieberman said. “It sends an important message that there is no free shot against journalists in the country.”

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Frieda Powers

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