The UK Government has been urged to protect people with photosensitive epilepsy, by better regulating fast-paced social media content.
Warnings have been issued by The Epilepsy Society, a charity looking to raise awareness of “online harms”.
It’s understood that a growing number of people with epilepsy have experienced seizures triggered by certain content on social media.
The BBC reports that more than 18,000 people in the UK may have epilepsy triggered by photosensitivity. This can include flashing lights or contrasting, quick-fire imagery.
Now, The Epilepsy Society has said it is seeing “an increasing number” of complaints from sufferers. It’s felt that fast-paced videos, shared on social media, leave people with epilepsy vulnerable to seizures – due to a lack of warnings.
Photosensitive #epilepsy is when seizures are triggered by flashing lights or contrasting light and dark patterns. #Photosensitive epilepsy is not common but it may be diagnosed when you have an EEG test. Learn more https://t.co/X9T9kzPSEg pic.twitter.com/mDttHMbLi4
— Epilepsy Society (@epilepsysociety) April 14, 2019
It gets worse. The charity believe cyber-bullies post malicious content intentionally. It says content is ‘tagged’ with keywords around epilepsy, which deliberately targets those with the condition.
According to the BBC, the Government has committed to consulting with the charity on this issue. It is understood that Facebook and Instagram are also exploring ways to make their platforms more safe and inclusive.
So, what changes do The Epilepsy Society want to see?
The society want anyone found guilty of intentionally posting this type of content to be prosecuted. It would be a charge of assault.
The Government is being urged to include regulatory measures in its Online Harms White Paper. This, campaigners say, would help protect people who are photosensitive.
Clare Pelham, chief executive of The Epilepsy Society, has shared her thoughts on the charity’s website.
“Many people share videos with potentially dangerous content without realising the danger that it could pose to someone who is photosensitive. And we absolutely recognise that there is no intent to cause harm here,” she said.
“However, when it comes to deliberately targeting people with epilepsy with the intention of causing a seizure, behaviour that some people call cyber bullying, we need to call that behaviour what it is – a pre-meditated and pre-planned intention to assault.
“The Government must bring this behaviour within the reach of the criminal law.”
This inclusion to the White Paper would also look at protecting children and young people with epilepsy, as well as warnings for flashing images.
The Epilepsy Society’s post, calls on politicians to safeguard people with photosensitive epilepsy online. However, as well as regulation advice, it also includes an open letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
An insightful first-person piece from Sophie Harries, who was diagnosed at the age of 15, was also part of the post. You can read both in full here.
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