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PNGs Banned By Twitter After Attacks Against Photosensitive People With Seizure

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PNGs Banned By Twitter After Attacks Against Photosensitive People With Seizure

Microblogging site Twitter has banned animated PNG files from its platform. The decision was taken after attackers hijacked Epilepsy Foundation’s Twitter account and shared similar animated images. Twitter said animated images tweeted using the US-based non-profit foundation’s account could cause seizures in photosensitive people. The company said the safety of its users is the top priority and therefore it removed the ability to share PNG files. The social networking site said it recently discovered a bug that allowed users to bypass autoplay settings. It said although PNG files were fun, they don’t respect autoplay settings. The feature allows the content to play automatically as users scroll through the timeline.

Twitter said attackers took advantage of the bug to share multiple animated images in a single tweet. The company didn’t reveal the number of users affected by the bug. But many people were affected by this attack worldwide. Twitter said PNG files also used excess data. These files even crashed the app in some situations. Notably, existing content with PNG images will remain on the timeline and only GIFs will animate. Twitter said that it will work on developing a new feature to allow users to share animated images. The feature will be designed to give PNG like experience to the users. Meanwhile, Epilepsy Foundation said it has filed criminal complaints against accounts suspected to have been involved in the wrongful act.

Twitter Engineering explained that using a PNG format for animation is difficult. This format in a tweet also caused performance issues for the app. It slowed the app and device as well by increasing the RAM usage. According to Twitter, if photosensitive people are exposed to PNGs they could suffer from seizures. It is a disorder wherein nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed and causes changes in behavior. The American microblogging site said that it is exactly what the attackers were planning.  The company said it banned animated images to create a safe environment for its users.

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