U.S. Federal Court Says Being Muted In Video Game Chat Is Not A Civil Rights Violation

A federal court has handed down what seems like a no-brainer decision that being muted in a video game is not a civil right's violation. PC Gamer posted a full report on the decision, but the shorthand to it is that a Runescape player in Pennsylvania sued Jagex for muting him in Runescape. While we can't seem to find any of the content he posted or spoke that got him muted in the first place, it appears it was enough that the developers decided to remove his ability to talk with the community. He appealed and failed to win. So he sued them, claiming they discriminated against him and violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and "due process". That was dismissed by a judge who had to educate him on what the First Amendment actually means.

U.S. Federal Court Says Being Muted In Video Game Chat Is Not A Civil Rights Violation
Credit: Blizzard

Rather than letting it go, the plaintiff tried to sue a second time, this time saying his civil rights had been violated. And cited Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as part of his claim this time around. Again, it was dismissed, because the action of being muted was not based around his race, color, religion, or national origin.

What this all boils down to in the context of gaming is something we've said for years with players who complain about being censored in text or voice chat who live in countries with freedom of speech. You absolutely have the right to say whatever you would like. But certain words and phrases come with consequences depending on how and where you use them and who you say them to. When you go to a private server owned by a company and violate their TOS, chances are you won't be doing it a lot afterward. And now you know that no matter what video game you go to, if you act like a fool and they mute you, it's not against the law and you probably won't win a civil suit.

The moral: Don't be a jerk in chat.

About Gavin Sheehan

Gavin is the current Games Editor for Bleeding Cool. He has been a lifelong geek who can chat with you about comics, television, video games, and even pro wrestling. He can also teach you how to play Star Trek chess, be your Mercy on Overwatch, recommend random cool music, and goes rogue in D&D. He also enjoys hundreds of other geeky things that can't be covered in a single paragraph. Follow @TheGavinSheehan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vero, for random pictures and musings.