It’s easy to dismiss the warnings about what’s coming, lots of people do, arguing that only the wildly pessimistic think we’re headed for serious trouble. Stories like this suggest you can’t be too pessimistic about what’s coming.
John Rivello, the Twitter user who allegedly sent a tweet that caused a journalist to have a seizure, was charged by the Dallas District Attorney Monday with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The felony assault charge comes with a hate crime enhancement.
The Maryland man was arrested by the FBI Friday for allegedly sending an animated image, also known as a GIF, to Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald in December which said, “you deserve a seizure.”
Eichenwald’s wife subsequently tweeted that the GIF had indeed caused Eichenwald to have a seizure. The federal criminal complaint says that a direct message from Rivello’s alleged account, “Ari Goldstein” or “@jew_goldstein,” to another account said he hopes that the GIF “sends” Eichenwald “into a seizure.”
The FBI located Rivello through an Apple iCloud account associated with a phone number he used to sign up for Twitter. The iCloud account included a photo of Rivello posing with his driver’s license, the complaint says.
This appears to be first situation where someone has been arrested due to an internet posting causing the direct bodily harm of another user. Rivello is being being charged federally under a law which prohibits using an electronic communication with the intent of hurting or killing another individual.
The assertion that an image caused this lunatic to have a seizure is so ridiculous, that it is impossible to assume the authorities believe it. Even if such a thing were remotely possible, it means we will need to build a lot of new prisons. If posting certain images is not a criminal act solely because someone claims harm, this ends with everyone accusing everyone of a criminal act. The fact is, the FBI is just harassing this guy because they want to send a message. That message is you better get permission before you speak.