The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has shot down a gamer’s claims that his civil rights were violated when a developer muted him in an online video game without giving him a reason.
Pennsylvania resident Amro Elansari took Runescape developer Jagex Inc to court over the issue, and claimed that he has the right to free speech. He felt that Jagex’s violations fell under “Discrimination — Business — Public Space,” “Free Speech/Expression/Culture” and “Due Process — Adverse Action — Notification Breach of Contract.”
His claims were shot down, following which he unsuccessfully appealed. While the defendant in this case is a PC developer, the case is relevant to the games industry in general, and this ruling clarifies something that is often misconstrued: what “freedom of speech” actually entails and its implication when it comes to private entities.
“Elansari insists that developer Jagex should be liable for ‘unequal treatment’ because Elansari’s account was muted compared to all other players who are not muted,” the ruling concluded. “Even generously construing Elansari’s complaint to raise a claim of public accommodations discrimination and assuming that Elansari can bring such a claim in this context, at no point either in the District Court or on appeal has Elansari alleged losing access to Jagex’s online game due to discrimination. For the reasons above, Elansari has shown no error in the District Court’s dismissal of the complaint.”
Elansari, who spent thousands of hours playing Runescape, wanted to be unmuted and sought “whatever the jury sees fit” in terms of damages.