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Man accused of sending a seizure-inducing tweet charged with cyberstalking

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current events

Man accused of sending a seizure-inducing tweet charged with cyberstalking published by nherting
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Posted on 2017-03-18
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Maryland man, and charged him with cyberstalking, for allegedly sending a seizure-inducing tweet to Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald, who has written about his battle with epilepsy.

The Friday arrest, which comes three months after Eichenwald announced his seizure, is believed to be the first in connection to somebody attacking someone with an epileptogenic image online. At the time, Eichenwald said he was determined to bring to justice the attacker who used the handle @jew_goldstein and the pseudonym (((Ari Goldstein))).

With some forms of epilepsy, strobing lights can spark seizures. In 1997, for example, a Pokémonepisode was said to have sent nearly 700 Japanese children to the hospital. Epileptogenesis was believed to be a problem for WipEout HD in 2008. And about a decade ago, hackers descended on an epilepsy-support message board with flashing animations and triggered headaches and seizures in some users.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department identified the suspect as 29-year-old John Rayne Rivello, who was arrested early Friday at his residence in Salsbury, Maryland.

“What [this person] did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with Anthrax spores,” said Eichenwald’s attorney, Steven Lieberman. “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.”

The December 15 tweet at Eichenwald included a strobing image and said, "you deserve a seizure." Eichenwald said that he has received as many as 40 similar tweets from various Twitter handles after he announced he received the seizure-inducing strobing tweet. “Details of their cases are with the FBI. Stop sending them,” Eichenwald tweeted Friday.

According to the Justice Department:

...Evidence received pursuant to a search warrant showed Rivello’s Twitter account contained direct messages from Rivello’s account to other Twitter users concerning the victim.  Among those direct messages included statements by Rivello, including “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” “Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,” and “I know he has epilepsy.”  Additional evidence received pursuant to a search warrant showed Rivello’s iCloud account contained a screenshot of a Wikipedia page for the victim, which had been altered to show a fake obituary with the date of death listed as Dec. 16, 2016.   Rivello’s iCloud account also contained screen shots from with a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers and from discussing the victim’s report to the Dallas Police Department and his attempt to identify the Twitter user.

Eichenwald, who lives in Dallas, had asked a Dallas County court on December 19 to order Twitter to divulge account information connected to his alleged assailant. Newsweek reported that somebody going by the name John Doe, citing the First Amendment, filed a motion to prevent the disclosure. Eichenwald dropped the case because he said he had figured out, without the court’s help, who had sent him the tweet.



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