Twitter Bans Animated PNG Image Files After Attackers Target Users With Epilepsy

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Twitter has banned the use of animated PNG image (APNG) files on its platform, after attackers targeted the Epilepsy Foundation's Twitter account using images that could potentially causes seizures in photo-sensitive individuals.

The company said it had discovered a bug that allowed users to bypass its autoplay settings and enabled several animated images to be attached to a single tweet using the APNG file format.

"We want everyone to have a safe experience on Twitter," the company said in a tweet sent from its Accessibility account on Monday.

"PNGs were fun, but they don't respect autoplay settings, so we're removing the ability to add them to tweets. This is for the safety of people with sensitivity to motion and flashing imagery, including those with epilepsy."


The attacks on the Epilepsy Foundation's Twitter account occurred in November, which was National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Twitter said that it was not aware that APNG files had been used, but the bug meant that they had the potential to be harmful, so it had decided to ban them on the social media platform.

It's unknown how many people may have been affected by the animated images, which exploited strobing light effects with malicious intent. The Epilepsy Foundation said it had filed criminal complaints against the accounts believed to have been responsible.

In addition to the seizure risk, Twitter said the APNGs also used up a lot of data and in some cases could be a direct cause of app crashes. As such, from now on only GIFs will be able to animate images.

Twitter also said that it would look into building a similar feature in the absence of APNGs, such as adding alt-text to GIFs, which will help make them more accessible to people who depend on screen readers to navigate the internet.

Tag: Twitter

Top Rated Comments

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11 months ago
What an utterly stupid and senseless idea, to attack these people with this kind of animations. I am not always into pursuing people for every nonsense, they do on the internet, but in this case the attackers should land in jail.

How can a normal working brain come to that kind of idea? Ok, if there is no brain...
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
11 months ago


“We don’t know how to deal with a newer format so we block it.”

People were literally using the format as a weapon that causes physical harm.

Better to block it until effective countermeasures can be developed, yes.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
11 months ago
Some pretty sick puppies out there to do that.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
11 months ago
This is the online equivalent of force-feeding peanuts to a nut allergy sufferer...
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
11 months ago


Glad Twitter actually took action.

If the APNG's carried racist slogans and iconography, the creators would have got away with it.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
11 months ago


No, its not.

Its bad. Its sick. It definitely needs to stop, with the offending parties getting more than a slap on the wrist.

It is definitely not the same as poisoning someone to murder them.

Actually yes it IS the same as epileptic fits can be lethal - people can die.
So yeah, this IS as bad.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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