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US court forced to tell player that videogame bans are not civil rights violations

A US federal court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Runescape developer Jagex by a Pennsylvania man. On appeal, Amro Elansari argued that Jagex’s moderation action against his account violated his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and his rights to public accommodations under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit was filed against Jagex and its Chinese parent companies in July 2019. The “largely handwritten” suit (as local outlet PennLive describes it) alleges that Jagex ‘muted’ him for no reason in an unnamed online game in March 2019. While the game is unnamed, Jagex’s limited publishing record and the term ‘muted’ both suggest that it’s some form of Runescape.

Muted Runescape players are able to continue playing and trading with other players, but are not allowed to access text chat. Elansari argued that this was “unequal treatment,” as there are other players who are not muted. He sought damages of “whatever the jury sees fit,” as well as the removal of the mute from his account.

As the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit details in its January 22 opinion, a Fourteenth Amendment claim can only be made against the government – not a private company. The response to Elansari’s claim of violations under the Civil Rights Act was similarly dismissed.

“Even generously construing Elansari’s complaint to raise a claim of public accomodations discrimination and assuming that Elansari can bring such a claim in this context, at no point in either in the District Court or on appeal has Elansari alleged losing access to Jagex’s online game due to discrimination based on any of the grounds protected by Title II.”

Elansari has filed at least 10 lawsuits in the past year and a half. In 2014, he was arrested and fined $100 for lighting a marijauna joint in front of a Bloomsburg University police officer, and he attempted to appeal the fine in 2016. The judge dismissed his appeal as a “rambling diatribe on the alleged virtues of marijuana.”

Elansari runs a Twitch channel called The420Streamer, in which he says he was “suspended from law school for legalizing weed.” His broadcast archive features daily streams of Old School RuneScape up through the week of January 19, 2020.

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