Twitter returns to the center of media attention after the discovery of a vulnerability that risked exposing users' personal data on Android. In this case it is instead a bug that allowed multiple animated PNG images to be added to tweets, violating the autoplay settings of the social network. Let me be clear: the speech is different from the publication of GIFs: the APNGs are large and, as the Twitter itself specifies, they can slow down the app, increase the memory in use and cause the app to crash. GIFs will remain available for publication.
By reconstructing the whole story, details emerge that go beyond purely technical issues. Last 16 December, in fact, the Epilepsy Foundation has published a note on its website in which it announces that it has filed a complaint with the relevant authorities following a series of attacks received during November, proclaimed National Epilepsy Awareness Month.
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
The official profile has in fact been targeted by several users who have published a series of images in APNG format with the hashtags of the Foundation. strobe light effects, which can create serious problems and seizures for those suffering from epilepsy and, in general, to photosensitive people.
According to what reported by Yahoo Finance, the images in APNG format would not have been used to deliberately attack the Foundation: Twitter would have thus prohibited them only to avoid any problems in the future and to reduce the risk of crash or malfunction of the app. The problem remains that the Epilepsy Foundation's Twitter account has been targeted anyway. As explained in the post,
For about 3% of people with epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or certain visual patterns can trigger seizures.
The Foundation believes that the attack was particularly serious as it was concentrated on the days dedicated to awareness and information on the disorder. The fact is that Twitter has now made it impossible to publish this format, while announcing that it will not remove previously published posts.