FBI nabs suspected troll behind US journalist's epileptic seizure

'Vanity Fair' writer Kurt Eichenwald received a number of strobe gifs intended to trigger his epilepsy

FBI nabs suspected troll behind US journalist's epileptic seizure


The FBI has revealed that a man in Maryland was arrested for sending tweets to a US journalist with the express intention of triggering his photosensitive epilepsy.

The bizarre case of alleged cyberstalking dates from December, when Vanity Fair contributor Kurt Eichenwald made an appearance on the Fox News programme Tucker Carlson Tonight, where the Fox News host accused Eichenwald of partisan reporting when covering the US presidential election.

Not long after appearing on the live broadcast, Donald Trump supporters on Twitter sent messages containing flashing gifs to Eichenwald, with the journalist suffering an epileptic fit.

The FBI has now arrested the alleged sender of that tweet, John Rayne Rivello, charging him with cyberstalking. According to an FBI press release, the Rivello, using the account @jew_goldstein, directed a message at Eichenwald containing an animated strobe image embedded with the statement, “You deserve a seizure for your post.”

Soon after his fit, Eichenwald’s wife, Dr Theresea Felicia Pearse, tweeted from her husband’s account to inform Rivello his details had been sent to the police, prompting more trolls to send tweets designed to provoke further fits.

Within days, Eichenwald had contacted Twitter to help identify the perpetrator, leading the FBI to Rivello, who is a registered Republican.

“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,” the Eichenwald’s attorney told Newsweek magazine.

Further evidence

Having received legal permission to investigate Rivello’s Twitter account, officers found a number of direct messages sent from Rivello to other accounts, containing messages like “I know he has epilepsy,” “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” and “Spammed this at [victim], let’s see if he dies.”

Further investigations revealed that Rivello’s iCloud account contained screen shots from Epilepsy.com with a list of commonly reportedly seizure triggers, as well as an edited Wikipedia page reporting Eichenwald’s death.

Rivello has no previous criminal history, aside from having once had a speeding ticket dismissed.

After news of his arrest broke, Eichenwald tweeted that more than 40 other trolls had sent him strobe gifs in an attempt to once again trigger his epilepsy, adding that he had passed on details of each one to the FBI.

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