US Court of Appeals upholds decision that a RuneScape player’s muting did not violate free speech

    
34

The 3rd Circuit US Court of Appeals has effectively squashed any further action by one Amro Elansari, a RuneScape player who claimed that Jagex’s muting of him in-game was a violation of his right to free speech.

Readers will recall that the original case, as heard by U.S. Eastern District Judge Mark A. Kearney, was thrown out on the grounds that free speech protection applies only to government parties and not private companies, which have the authority to not provide people a platform for whatever bile they speak or type out. Elansari attempted to appeal the case in a hand-written lawsuit, asking for damages in the amount of “whatever the jury sees fit” as well as a removal of the muting.

The circuit judges ultimately reasoned that Elansari’s treatment was nothing unique to others who had been similarly muted and that nothing that happened to him was anything close to a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. So let this whole thing be yet another nice reminder that free speech does not mean speech without consequences on a privately owned platform.

34
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

Imagine for a moment another world where he actually won. I know, it’s more than just far out there and impossible, but imagine it happened anyway :D Pretend he both won and that it went to the US Supreme Court and was upheld and there was no more moderation allowed in the US. The world that would open up.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

And even if the court did hold it up, RuneScape is a British game, how are they meant to automatically be respecting the US Constitution lol.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

That’s the Parent Company, but I am assuming the server he was on was designated as a USA server and is located in the US.

Not that it matters anyway, a US server of a private company is not a place you can do or say whatever you want. But if US Citizens really did have free speech on these platforms he would have a case because of where the server is and what it is designated as.

Reader
A Bellow From Below

Then again, with increasing privatization and commercialization of public space, persecution by “government parties” is of the least concern for your average citizen. What we should worry about is persecution by corporations, because pretty much everything we interact with belongs to some corporation or other.

While it is sometimes necessary to remove individual troublemakers from the shared space, the keyword here is “necessary”. For example, how would you like not being able to pay or receive payments online, because your bank has decided that your speech somewhere on the internet is against their corporate policies? Retroactively, even – because ex post facto is forbidden only for laws, not for private corporations’ terms of service.

That’s exactly where we’re heading with this “no freedom from consequences” nonsense: private entities will be policing and disciplining us based on their own arbitrary rules, without any repercussions or accountability. Essentially, they’re gonna have all the power of the state, but none of the safeguards to hold them back. Distributed totalitarianism. And people like you will be applauding – until one day, you too get banned for your opinion, or a gesture, or a choice of attire, or something else that used to be perfectly acceptable just a few months ago.

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

But you glaze over the fact that the use of any product or service or any interactions with a company is voluntary – the same is not true with citizenship. Not that continued expansion of corporate rights over citizen’s right isn’t concerning, because it is. But a corporation can’t ban you from using their services, then expect you to continue to pay using their services.

If you dislike the way a corporation treats you or it’s policies – you take your business elsewhere. Enough people do that, the business starts to lose money, and things change. You can’t do just “take your citizenship elsewhere” in the same way.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

This is a big issue when the corporation holds a de-facto monopoly, though. For example, Google removing a site from all its services basically destroys most of that site’s opportunities for traffic growth and monetization, which is something Google is legally allowed to do for no reason whatsoever. So, I do think in some cases companies should be held to higher standards.

The same can be said about cartels. If a group of companies collectively hold enough market share that it would be considered a near-monopoly if a single company owned it all, and they often act in tandem, then I do believe those companies should be subject to similarly high standards too.

On the other hand, I don’t think this should ever be applied to a MMO; like any entertainment it’s completely non-essential.

Reader
dreamer

This would work in a fair and competitive economy, but ours is neither.

Twitter, for example, has assumed a large sphere of our political discourse (evidenced by all the fear that it can influence our elections); should you be muted there or your account banned, you would lose access to a large platform of ideas. Today, that’s essentially being silenced. #canceling only works because of this.

Social media and services like Twitter, Tumblr, Twitch, etc. have become too large to be governed under the usual private laws. Social media is the new street corner, but users are not protected under the same laws which govern the latter.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Alberto

Uh..Duh?

Techno Wizard
Reader
Techno Wizard

When you visit someone else’s world, try to be polite and mind your P’s and Q’s. You are a guest after all so try not to upset your host. It’s not that difficult.

Churro Flamínguez
Reader
Churro Flamínguez

Pretty sure that’s also all included in most games’ EULAs, which we all agree to when playing said games. Heck, we don’t even own our characters outright in most cases.

Reader
Arktouros

Yep. This is what we agreed to. Private companies and the private platforms they run are not publicly protected speech. It’s their platform. It’s their rules on what is and is not allowed to be discussed or said on their platform. If they don’t like what you’re doing on their platform they can mute you or even just outright remove you entirely.

And certainly we’re all riding a high and saying “Ya dumbass that only applies towards the government not just some video game!” it seems everyone is equally ignoring the fact that the tech companies who run these platforms, which have a variety of interests, can silence or mute you at any time in an era where public discourse is ever increasingly moving online to the platforms they run.

Reader
Utakata

They might even end up in your fridge eating all your chocolate ice cream. /monkaS

Reader
Arktouros

Or banning someone off a platform making a political statement you agree with /LUL

Reader
Bryan Correll

I agree that there are issues with big social media platforms*, but Runescape ain’t Twitter.

*And there are some court decisions that have reflected that. Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, have both been barred from banning people from viewing their tweets.

Reader
Arktouros

It’s the same principle of allowing platform owners complete and total autonomy that are at play regardless of what their actual platform is be it a social media website, an online video game, and really all the other variations of.

While we can certainly point out Runescape ain’t Twitter, we can also point out the increasing number of cases where people use game platforms for political statements or causes as well.

Reader
Loopy

But just because the modern trend is for public discourse to be migrating to these private platforms due to the reach and size of the audience, doesn’t mean we should then abandon the notion of “private” and say “well, they reached critical mass, now we can’t police our own platform any more”. Where do we draw the line?

Reader
A Bellow From Below

They’re service providers, their concern is to keep the servers up and rake the money from ads. So the line is fairly easy to draw:
– Is the user doing anything that might be violating the law? YES: Lock and forward to the police. NO: Disregard
– Is the user doing anything that compromises the stability of the service? YES: Discipline the user. NO: Disregard

Now, just two most recent examples from Facebook: if you write “Eric Ciaramella” on Facebook, your post will likely disappear with no explanation. If you write “Tommy Robinson”, your account might even end up locked for a few weeks. Simply because someone, somewhere, has decided that those two names shouldn’t be said publicly. And there’s nothing we can do about it, because there’s enough clowns willing to protect those poor, vulnerable global corporations against us vicious little people. ;)

Reader
phaedrux

Weird! When I search for those names on FB there are a bunch of results that come up. The Deep State must be monitoring your communications and changing things temporarily in response.

Reader
Bryan Correll

Not Facebook, but on Youtube one of those people is often referred to as Voldemort due to the frequency of videos mentioning him by name being taken down.

Reader
Arktouros

Where do we draw the line?

And to me that’s the big discussion we should be having, not just mocking some guy who thought he should have free speech in a video game.

Personally I don’t have a catch all solution to the issue as when you really start to see and get an understanding of all the pieces in play it’s easy to see how complex of a scenario it all really is. Like my gut instinct is service-neutral where the platform owners just own and operate the platforms but disregard the content but there’s a number of issues that have come up as a result of them more or less operating like that as is.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Actually, that one about Trump and AOC was a first amendment issue because the president and a congressman effectively represent the government, and in both cases they used their Twitter accounts for political (which for them both is basically government) purposes; so, it was not a private company or private individuals censoring someone, but persons who represent the government censoring people from a channel they use for government purposes.

The fact it was a Twitter account didn’t matter. It isn’t Twitter that is bound by first amendment rules, but rather Trump and AOC.

Reader
Utakata

Of course, the strawman here would be to assume that I am all fair weather about that, when I have expressed as much otherwise. So I don’t make exceptions to that even if I agree with the politics, if that is what you are implying.

But I think it’s an insult to our intelligence to believe everything that happens is not without it’s grey areas and/or questionable jurisdictions. I mean there are limits on limiting free speech as their limits to free speech. Companies can’t make decisions outside of the law, for example. I think Armsbend-san has eluded to this below. Nor does it prevent the rest of us disagreeing with their actions openly. That is, walking off with out wallets for the example…turning their actions into a PR nightmare. I could go on…

…as I am sure you’ll ramble on how wrong I am in the rebuttal, LUL. But don’t assume in our world of absolutisms absolutely that some of us are well aware of the murky world where everything is not always cut and dry. And is oft more complicated than we are willing to admit or give it.

But personally, I don’t think anyone is coming for your free speech over this…if that’s why you are shifting uncomfortably in your chair about. :)

Reader
Arktouros

You made an entirely flippant comment about tech companies breaking into houses to steal ice cream. You did this to imply I was being nonsensical or overly paranoid/worried when all it takes is one example to show serious you actually take this topic. No strawmen required.

Sure companies have to follow laws, but there are no laws stating private companies on private platforms have any responsibility to give you a fair or equal platform. Most laws were written before the concept of something like the internet we have today was even imaginable. You can certainly be upset and take your business elsewhere for their actions as well, but past examples have shown that doesn’t work out well in all cases. Not only do the companies continue on regardless but finding a new business without similar control over it’s platform is basically impossible. Maybe your new platform is super ethical and totally never would ever ban a user for what they say…right up until they do it because it’s their platform and they can.

Only thing I’ll “ramble” on about is your weird fascination with me and your near obsession level of references to past posts. Since you’re liking the Twitch vernacular, FeelsWeirdMan.

My post here is literally pointing out that topics like this are more complex than just a dude in a video game arguing he has first amendment rights and there’s a bigger picture at play. I’m very well aware of the complexities. Also no one is going to forcibly take away your free speech or freedom or anything else. You’re just going to willingly sign those away one EULA at a time.

Reader
Utakata

That should of been taken as a ribbing. Sorry you misunderstood that. I’ll avoid doing that to you again…

…and I no have more obsession about you than you do have trying to prove me wrong. :) But there is no need this time, as in principle we seem to agree with each other over this one. So I really don’t have anything to add further to this.

Thank you for you time.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

With regard to tech companiess I would still argue it’s their house their rules even if I disagree with the rulings on occasion. If you came into my house spouting stuff I strongly disagree with I don’t care who you are I would be escorting you to the door.

Conversations and the way we communicate is constantly evolving. I am quite certain that should said tech companies flex too much they will (in time) be replaced my others who have different values or goals.

Reader
Bryan Correll

hand-written lawsuit

And those usually work out so well….

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

Some of these lawsuits have been working out in favor of the plaintiff – might as well try them out I guess.

Reader
Loopy

It baffles me why people think “free speech” means absolute protection from being a toxic waste of air.

The concept of free speech was created as a protective measure against government persecution, giving citizens the ability to criticize their government without fears of being arrested. But in a private forum such as social media, games or other platforms hosted by private entities, you bet your ass you can be muted, kicked out, banned, and other measures being taken against the filth that’s leaving your keyboard strokes.

People need to understand their rights and limitations to those rights before crying “wolf”.

Churro Flamínguez
Reader
Churro Flamínguez

The whole thing is quite simple and basic when one looks at the speech in question that’s being fought over, or “protected” (in the minds of these lonely crusaders at least).

They often whine that they have a right to say whatever, and they do—anyone can say anything they please. It’s just that, when those words one is choosing to say are almost all complaining, negativity, toxic criticism, childish tantrums, victimhood complexes, etc…. you’re not adding anything to the discussion then. You’re not enlightening anyone about anything, except the fact you’re upset and you’ve decided to throw a tantrum. And you insist on your right to throw said tantrum, which of course you have. But you also want said tantrum to be consequence-free, and that just ain’t gonna happen.

Reader
Robert Mann

Note #1: Constitutional rights are protections against the GOVERNMENT. Similarly, Constitutional duties, powers, and so forth are what government is allowed to do.

Note #2: If one expresses themselves through vile and vulgar words or acts, then the likely result will be that people will avoid them and private institutions of any sort will remove them, unless vile and vulgar is the standard of said people and groups.

*Things Mr. Elansari should have been taught long, long ago.*

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

I have lost count how many times I have explained that to folks on forums over the years.

If I had a penny for each one well I wouldn’t be rich but I would think a nice meal in a good restaurant would be on the cards at least.

Reader
Utakata

Note #3: There is a reason why I curse a blue streak at my monitor in the confines of my dwelling, as opposed to in a middle of a quiet populated restaurant. That is, knowing the latter will not end well for me. And that has nothing to do with free speech. >.<

Reader
Robert Mann

Aye, we can all use a chance to vent every now and then. Somewhere that isn’t public, in any way, is always best.

Or occasionally outside a way and in public so that older family members who have gained some large fog banks in their heads don’t hear it. But that’s best as a wordless utterance of frustration!

Reader
Jahlon

When people make the argument that they have the absolute right to free speech, I just ask them if I can walk into their house and yell at them.