Court Tosses Lawsuit Claiming Muting A Runescape Character Violates The First Amendment

from the as-one-does dept

Here's a bit of a weird one: a First Amendment lawsuit over the "muting" of a player's character. (h/t Volokh Conspiracy)

Amro Elansari -- in a handwritten complaint [PDF] -- contends Jagex Inc., the company behind Runescape, violated loads of rights and other things when it apparently muted his character back in March of this year. The allegations include discrimination, violations of his free speech rights along with his due process rights, and other "adverse action."

He claims he was muted for no reason and without notification -- this despite being a "streamer + 2000 hours + invested." He also claims this happened while he was streaming and that viewers witnessed this egregious violation of multiple rights as it happened. Elansari's lawsuit asks for the court to order the "mute" removed and whatever else a jury might find proper to award him.

Obviously, there's nothing the judicial system can do for him.

To start with, Elansari is suing a (UK) company for violating his (American) rights. Even without these particular modifiers, there's nowhere Elansari can go with this. He's suing a private company for violating his Constitutional rights -- something that's almost impossible for a private company to do. Especially First Amendment rights, which can only be violated by the government.

Early on in the order [PDF], the court notes there's no federal claim it can even attempt to handle given the particulars of the allegations.

[Elansari] cannot state a constitutional claim against a private company precluding him [from] amending to assert a federal question.

It gets a bit more particular a couple of pages later:

While he alleges Jagex Inc., an entity located in the United Kingdom, muted and denied his appeal, these allegations cannot state a plausible constitutional claim.

Now, pay attention everyone lining up to sue social media platforms for moderating them.

The First Amendment and its constitutional free speech guarantees restrict government actors, not private entities.

The same goes for the due process claims. Only the government can violate these rights. For a private company to violate the Fifth Amendment, it has to be working in concert with the government when the violation occurs. Obviously, a Runescape muting does not involve state actors -- not even UK-located ones.

I know our civics textbooks said nice things about the judicial system and the redress of grievances, but sometimes a (legal) complaint is just a (regular) complaint. The plaintiff gets to bitch a bit and the court just kind of nods along like a tolerant bartender until closing time.

The only place Elansari comes out ahead is at the cash register. The court grants his request to file without paying fees, but the only thing that does is keep him from falling farther behind.

Once again with feeling:

The First Amendment and its constitutional free speech guarantees restrict government actors, not private entities.

Some people out there need this tattooed to the inside of their eyelids… or at the very least, across the foreheads of their legal representation.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, amor elansari, free speech, muting, runescape
Companies: jagex


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