Animated GIF a 'deadly weapon' - US jury

Kurt Eichenwald
Kurt Eichenwald (Getty / file)

An animated GIF counts as a "deadly weapon", according to a US grand jury, after a journalist was allegedly sent a strobing image in an attempt to cause an epileptic seizure.

The question was raised after John Rayne Rivello allegedly sent the flashing GIF to Kurt Eichenwald via Twitter following an argument over Donald Trump, to try and cause an epileptic seizure.

FBI investigators allege Rivello sent a number of tweets and messages expressing his desire to cause Mr Eichenwald to have a seizure.

"I hope this sends him into a seizure," it's alleged one message reads. Investigators claim another reads: "Let's see if he dies".

Rivello is also accused of deliberately targeting Mr Eichenwald for being of Jewish descent, when he sent the strobing image.

An indictment from the grand jury declared he "did use and exhibit a deadly weapon", breaking it down into "a Tweet and a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) and an Electronic Device and Hands [sic]".

Mr Eichenwald says he did suffer a seizure when the image was sent to him.

"What Mr Rivello did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with anthrax spores," Mr Eichenwal's attorney told Newsweek, where the journalist works as a senior writer.

Rivello is charged with criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm, and felony assault with a hate crime enhancement.

He was released on bail at around 2am on Tuesday (local time) after his indictment.