There are No First Amendment Rights in Online Gaming Social Networking Sites


hard core gamer

A Plaintiff sued Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., for violating his claimed First Amendment rights by banning the Plaintiff from Sony’s Playstation 3 Network for violating Sony’s terms of use. Estavillo v. Sony Computer Entm’t Am. Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86821 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2009). 

For those not familiar with Sony’s Playstation 3 Network, think Second Life meets video games.  Sony’s Playstation 3 Network’s homepage describes the service as a “3D social gaming community that allows PLAYSTATION®3 users to meet, chat, plan, and launch into games together.”

The Defendant brought a motion to dismiss for failure to state facts sufficient to state a First Amendment claim.  Estavillo, 1-2.  The Court agreed.

Failing to State a Plausible First Amendment Claim

Game OverThe First Amendment right to free speech prohibits the Federal and state governments from limiting speech, not private actors.  Estavillo, 3.

Sony’s Playstation 3 Network is solely a private forum for a commercial product.  Estavillo, 5-6. While Sony’s Network is highly interactive, the Network is not part of the Federal or any state government, nor does it provide anything similar governmental functions.  Estavillo, 6. 

The Plaintiff did not state any plausible First Amendment arguments, as there was no government action infringing on any First Amendment rights, but a private forum. 

Bow Tie Thoughts

Time will tell if free or paid social networking sites are ever viewed as a “traditional public forum” with plausible First Amendment rights.  I do not think so, as all of these services are created and maintained private companies, subject to terms of use agreements.