As helpful a resource as the internet can be, it can also be a forum for online abuse. And perhaps nowhere on the internet is that abuse more prevalent than Twitter — a social media app that, at best, allows one voice to project to millions of interested followers, and at worst allows minions and trolls to attack users.
Kurt Eichenwald, journalist and writer for Newsweek and Vanity Fair, was the victim of one such heinous attack — a tweet embedded with "a multicolored strobe that was going at a speed that was designed to cause a seizure." The tweet had its intended effect: Eichenwald, who has written extensively about his epilepsy, suffered a serious seizure and was bedridden for 24 hours afterwards. Now Twitter has agreed to track down the troll who sent the tweet.
Eichenwald filed a lawsuit against "John Doe" for injuries sustained by viewing the tweet, sent from the Twitter handle "@jew_goldstein." Although Twitter is not named in the suit, the judge in the case issued an order this week allowing Eichenwald's lawyer to issue subpoenas to compel the social media giant to reveal the user's true identity. And, according to Newsweek, Twitter agreed to the order, indicating it will not fight the subpoenas:
The order allowing for the issuance of subpoenas was signed by the judge just hours after Eichenwald's lawyer filed a motion seeking judicial authorization to issue subpoenas. The timing between filing documents seeking the power to subpoena potential witnesses and the signing of an order by a judge usually can take as long as two weeks, during which time anyone who could be a target of a subpoena can contest the motion. The order states that Twitter "agreed to the expedited relief," which means it could move quickly to help identify the subscriber. The order also requires Twitter to preserve all records related to the subscriber.
This is not the first time Eichenwald has been on the receiving end of a malicious tweet, and he even said it's the second time he's gotten a strobe image tweeted at him. He believes the attack was in response to his critical reporting of the President-elect, as both Eichenwald and Vanity Fair have been decidedly anti-Trump in their coverage.
And it is far from the first time Twitter has been criticized for permitting hate speech and trolling to flourish on its platform. "Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones quit Twitter in July after sustained harassment from racist Trolls.
- Find Internet Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Newsweek Writer Takes Action After Tweet Causes Seizure (Newsweek)
- Are You an Internet 'Troll'? Legal Consequences to Consider (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Can You Sue Anonymous Internet Trolls? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)