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.

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


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 12:39pm

    "I'm going to make a living playing video games."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 24 Jul 2019 @ 12:49pm

      Works for a fair number of Twitch streamers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 24 Jul 2019 @ 1:02pm

        Re:

        Works for a fair number of Twitch streamers. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

        And E-Athletes, for that matter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 1:13pm

        Re:

        i.e. the IG model-influencers of the video game world.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 5:57pm

          There are millionaires out there who made their fortune just because they're fun to watch. What's the difference between an improv comedian who quips with pals like Ryan Stiles and George Proops; and an improv comedian who happens to be raiding a virtual dungeon while he quips with pals?

          Or, sometimes, it has connections to a real world skill or sport of some variety. For example, NASCAR driver William Byron's career got started on iRacing when he was just 15. Now he's the driver for Jeff Gordon's former team.

          This dude, though... this dude is definitely an "unfluencer".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 12:42pm

    Did anyone else read that as mutating? I think it would be much more interesting if it was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 1:17pm

    Just because someone else makes a living playing children's games (video or otherwise) doesn't mean society is obligated to remove all obstacles in the way of other people (say, me) making a living the same way.

    I am, of course, free to rent a venue (online or off), collect entry fees, and perform. But why should, say, Carnegie Hall be forced to rent time to me--even if they are the most prestigious venue, and therefore the place I deem most likely to pay me a large profit?

    Aside: I am a little surprised that the website's TOS don't require any litigation to be in British courts: sloppy work on the part of British lawyers who perhaps thought foreign courts were as irrelevant as foreign constitutions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 24 Jul 2019 @ 3:08pm

      Re:

      Just because someone else makes a living playing children's games

      The average age of video game players is over 30. If BoardGameGeek's poll is representative (which is questionable) a sizeable majority of tabletop gamers are 26-45 years old. These are, by and large, games intended for adults.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 4:29pm

      Re:

      Actually, it does -

      These terms and conditions are governed by English law and any dispute connected with them or Jagex Products will be decided only by the courts of England.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 1:53pm

    "Breach of contract". idk, that may even be funnier than discrimination, free speech, due process. Aside from also filing against private entities in the UK and China. China!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 24 Jul 2019 @ 3:34pm

    Another dreadful case of left wing internet companies silencing Runescapertive voices! Won't someone please think of the free speech?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2019 @ 6:00pm

    Summery

    Plaintiff: this is an outrage!
    Defendant:no it is not.
    Me: the runes still online?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Qwertygiy, 24 Jul 2019 @ 6:01pm

    There is no free speech in video games.

    You have to pay $9.99 for the DLC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2019 @ 3:06am

    Amro Elansari is an idiot. When you're using my servers or you are on my property, you only have the rights I decide to give you. If you're in my house and assume you have the right to free speech, my response would be to "get the fuck off my property". You're free to exercise your right to free speech just as long as I don't have to listen to it.

    The right to free speech is limited to when the government decides that you can't exercise it. It has nothing to do private conversation unless a government entity decides to use it against you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Headache solution

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