This week, a Texas grand jury decided that a GIF image can be classified as a deadly weapon if used to assault another human being. The question arose in the case against John Rayne Rivello, a man who tweeted a seizure-inducing GIF file to Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald.
Eichenwald is diagnosed with epilepsy and suffered a seizure after the GIF triggered a response. His wife notified authorities, and they arrested Rivello after a three-month investigation. Now that the trial is underway for Rivello, the grand jury decided that the GIF file would be allowed to stand as a deadly weapon, leading to the “assault with a deadly weapon” charge.
Eichenwald argues that the image was used specifically to inflict harm upon him, and could have caused death just as easily as any gun or knife could. The grand jury agreed with him, leading to the unprecedented ruling of “a Tweet, a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) and an Electronic Device and Hands” being allowed to count as a deadly weapon.
Rivello also faces hate crime charges with authorities charging that the attack was inspired both by Eichenwald’s criticisms of President Donald Trump and the fact that he is Jewish.
After the story reached national news, Eichenwald sadly claims that at least 40 Twitter copycats have sent him the same image.