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Federal court: Getting muted in RuneScape doesn’t violate your civil rights

Serial litigator in Pennsylvania loses latest appeal

A house in the fantasy world of RuneScape, at night, beside a pond.
A scene from Runescape in 2018
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

A federal court of appeals shot down a Pennsylvania man’s complaint that getting muted from an online video game (in this case, most likely RuneScape) violated his civil rights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit tossed out Amro Elansari’s claim in a Jan. 22 ruling. Elansari, a serial litigator who has filed 15 lawsuits in federal district court in the past five years, sued Jagex, the maker of RuneScape after getting muted last July. Elansari said he was a streamer with 2,000 hours invested in the game and that its moderators gave no reason for doing so. His appeal to them was denied.

A federal district court judge promptly dismissed Elansari’s suit, which was filed in handwriting on a court-provided form. Elansari had alleged “Discrimination — Business — Public Space,” “Free Speech/Expression/Culture” and “Due Process — Adverse Action — Notification Breach of Contract” as the constitutional grounds for hearing his claim.

When his suit was dismissed at the district level, Elansari took it to a three-judge panel, who didn’t think much of it either. In particular, the judges said that claims alleging a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection under the law) can only be brought if “any named defendant is a state actor.” Jagex is a U.K.-based company, and the other defendant Elansari named, Shanghai Fukong Interactive Entertainment, is a China-based venture capital firm that bought Jagex in 2016.

Elansari also said his claim was one of public accommodation discrimination (that is, even some private businesses may not discriminate against their clientele). The Third Circuit panel wasn’t going for that, either.

“Even generously construing Elansari’s complaint to raise a claim of public accommodations discrimination […] at no point […] has Elansari alleged losing access to Jagex’s online game due to discrimination based on any of the grounds protected by Title II [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964],” the court wrote. Those grounds are race, color, religion or national origin.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, PA noted Elansari’s litigious history; he’s brought 10 suits in the past 18 months, four of them in July 2019 alone. His last appeal, also tossed, was for a lawsuit against Tinder alleging that the people the dating app said were interested in him were all fake.

Others sued by Elansari since 2015 include the University of Pennsylvania, an apartment complex in West Chester, PA, and Altria, the parent company of several prominent tobacco brands, for allegedly polluting that town with cigarette smoke.

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