The social network Twitter has decided to prevent its members from posting animated PNGs. Indeed, these have been used in attacks targeting people suffering from epilepsy, attempting by flashes of light to provoke seizures.
It was obviously through a tweet that the news was announced. It follows a bug discovered concerning the autoplay of these PNG files.
Animated PNG used to target epilepsy victims
If animated GIFs are very common, they suffer from some problems, namely a limitation to 256 colors. The animated PNG allow to drop this constraint and make moving images almost at the level of quality of short videos. They are more and more widespread, but problematic according to Twitter. These could be in use to cause seizures for people with epilepsy.
We want everyone to have a safe experience on Twitter.
APNGs 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. https://t.co/Suogtrop1u
— Twitter Accessibility (@TwitterA11y) December 23, 2019
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It all started last month when a series of attacks targeted the Epilepsy Foundation. The hackers had then sent GIF images and videos displaying fast flashes of light to the account of the foundation as well as to thousands of its subscribers. So, if Twitter reacts today by banning animated PNG, it is because, unlike animated videos and GIFs, PNG animation starts automatically, even when the parameters indicate otherwise.
It is therefore a radical solution to this bug that Twitter found by banning all animated PNGs. However, the network promises to look for an alternative. It is especially important to note that a Texas jury had considered an animated GIF as a weapon after a man had sent one to a journalist, thus causing him a crisis. Another case of hacking had taken place on a forum dedicated to epilepsy in 2011. Twitter probably doesn’t want to be complicit in these attacks by doing nothing.
“We want everyone to have a safe experience on Twitter. APNGs 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” said Twitter.