- Epilepsy contributed to about 1,100 deaths in 2019 according to the AIHW National Mortality Database
- In a world-first, Zach’s Law was passed in the United Kingdom on September 19, 2023
- The breakthrough new law has made it a criminal offence for anyone to try to trigger a seizure in someone with epilepsy by targeting them with flashing images online
After three years of campaigning from the Epilepsy Society in the United Kingdom, a new law has passed the House of Commons and House of Lords — making it an official criminal offence to target someone with flashing images online.
At just eight years of age, Zach Eagling, a schoolboy with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, became one of the first victims of a nasty online attack from trolls that was designed to trigger a seizure.
Now, 12-year-old Zach is the namesake of a new law included in the UK Online Safety Bill. Under the passing of this legislation, attackers could face up to five years in jail due to the emotional and physical harm this has caused for people with epilepsy.
However, the impact of Zach’s Law may extend to many platforms that are used by millions of Australians with disability. The Epilepsy Society has been in contact with a number of social media platforms to work on risk reduction for people with epilepsy online, including Twitter, TikTok, GIPHY, Tenor and Facebook.
Zach’s mother, Claire Keer, celebrated the victory after a harrowing experience and multiple years dedicated to the cause.
“When Zach was first attacked on Twitter by internet trolls, sending flashing images to try to trigger a seizure, I could not believe how mindless and malicious people could be,” Ms Keer said.
“My faith in humanity has been completely restored by the unfailing support we have received. I’ve been so proud of Zach as figurehead of the Epilepsy Society’s campaign to make the law on this barbaric behavior fit for the 21st century.”
“I could not be prouder of what Zach has achieved. For the past three and a half years, he has been spearheading the Zach’s Law campaign run by the Epilepsy Society to bring these trolls to justice.
“He has taken time out of school to meet with politicians, policymakers and the media. He has taken on the internet trolls and won.”
The law is a world first for people with epilepsy as unsuspecting people with epilepsy may be impacted through the ongoing work from the Zach’s Law campaign. President of Epilepsy Australia Wendy Groot commended Zach and his mother for their efforts.
“We are fully in favor of laws that protect the rights and well-being of people with epilepsy,” Ms Groot said.
“While this type of behavior has not been an issue here in Australia, as far as I am aware, we abhor the deliberate nature of it and applaud Claire Keer and her son Zach for the work they did to change the law in the UK to fight against it.”
Generally, photosensitive epilepsy is rare in the use of computer monitors and those with a sensitivity to screen flicker should seek a screen filter. Only in exceptional cases would it be necessary to restrict computer work.
High-quality monitors, liquid crystal or LCD screens with a flicker (refresh) rate of at least 60Hz may not pose a problem, according to Epilepsy Australia. The risk, for people with epilepsy, is more likely to be the images on the screen that trigger a seizure — such as in concerted harassment campaigns.
Source: disabilitysupportguide.com.au, David McManus