Twitter began banning the uploading of animated png image files (.apng) to the social network after similar images were sent during an attack on the Epilepsy Foundation ‘s Twitter account that could have caused seizures in photosensitive people.

Twitter Accessibility

@TwitterA11y

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://twitter.com/TwitterSupport/status/1209171739374014465 

Twitter Support

@TwitterSupport

We recently found a bug that lets you add multiple animated images to a Tweet using Animated PNG files. APNGs ignore our safeguards and can cause performance issues for the app and your device. Today we’re fixing the bug which will no longer allow APNGs to animate when Tweeted.

The Twitter team discovered that a bug allowed users to ignore the social network settings on automatic content playback thus allowing the inclusion of animated images that animated themselves  in a tweet if uploaded in apng format.

“ The apngs were fun, but they don’t respect the autoplay settings , so we’re removing the ability to add them to tweets. This is for the safety of people with movement sensitivity and flashing images, including those with epilepsy, ”writes the Twitter accessibility manager.

For about 3% of people with epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or certain visual patterns can trigger seizures . This condition is known as photosensitive epilepsy and is most common in children and adolescents.

twttr logo
Image: Twitter

Twitter is one of the largest public meeting places that exists today,” said Allison Nichol, director of legal defence at the Foundation for Epilepsy. “These attacks [those on the foundation’s Twitter profile]  are no different than those of a person carrying a strobe light in a convention of people with epilepsy and seizures, with the intention of inducing seizures and therefore causing significant harm to participants . The fact that these attacks occurred during the month of awareness of national epilepsy highlights only their reprehensible nature”.

After the foundation filed a formal criminal complaint with the Nichol authorities, he reiterated how “The Foundation works fully with law enforcement agencies and intends to use all available avenues to ensure that those responsible are found fully guilty.

Image: Pixabay

The tweets containing apng images uploaded so far will not be deleted from the social network but, from now on, the only animated images that can be uploaded in a tweet will be the Gifs. In addition, Twitter said it was working to add the All-Text function to the Gif in order to make it more accessible to people who depend on screen readers.

Eliminating the apng, however, will not completely solve the problem since in the past some trolls had used gifs to try to cause seizures to epileptic people. Fortunately, this format is still tied to the restrictions on self-reproduction which the bug has allowed to bypass in the case of the APGs.