Elon Musk's new X post puts people with epilepsy at risk of seizure
The Epilepsy Society is urging anyone with photosensitive epilepsy who uses the social media platform ‘X’, to make sure they have turned off the autoplay function for GIFs and videos.
The warning follows a post by X owner, Elon Musk, which contained a nine second GIF, with flashing, strobing imagery and no warning of the potential danger for anyone who is photosensitive. There were many complaints, with one user reporting that her partner had experienced a seizure as a result of the post.
We have spoken to X’s UK Global Government Affairs team. While they have declined to make an official statement, they confirmed that the post was not found to be a violation of their policies. They said they were sorry to hear about the young woman and wanted everyone to feel safe on their platform. For this reason, they said X provides people with the option of preventing media from autoplaying in their Timelines, as well as the platform preventing any GIFs from appearing when someone searches for "seizure" in GIF search.
They stressed that accounts dedicated to causing offline harm, including attempts to trigger seizures by sharing flashing images/ GIFs, would be permanently suspended.
Warning on flashing images required
The Epilepsy Society has repeated our request for X to introduce functionality that would include a warning with any post that contained flashing images, but the social media company said this was not currently possible and there were no plans in the pipeline to make this happen.
Nicola Swanborough, Head of External Affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said: “Elon Musk’s post is a perfect example of why user-generated content on X should come with an automatic warning if it contains flashing imagery. Not everyone is tech savvy and confident of adjusting their settings in order to turn off autoplay.
“X has a duty of care to make sure all its users are safe. It has repeatedly told us that it is impossible to control user generated posts by adding automatic warnings, but Musk is all about innovation and possibilities. He is a man who thinks big and beyond the boundaries. Now he needs to think about his users.
“We have worked hard over the last three years to campaign for new legislation that will make it a criminal offence to maliciously post flashing images to trigger seizures. We hope that Zach’s Law will safeguard people with epilepsy from internet trolls once the Online Safety Bill becomes law in the autumn.
“But there still remains a huge risk for people from non-malicious posts that could trigger seizures. We hope that Ofcom will make a difference by imposing penalties on social media companies that fail in their duty of care to their users.”