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Game censorship crusader sues Facebook for $120m

Claims emotional distress from user group threats

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Anti-video game gadfly Jack Thompson is suing Facebook for $120 million, accusing the social website of causing him emotional distress by not removing threatening comments posted by gamers.

Thompson is best known for his frenzied attempts to sue game makers over claims adult content in video games is directly responsible for acts of real-world violence. Last year, he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court after it ruled he "abused the legal system by submitting numerous, frivolous and inappropriate filings."

His ostentatious behavior both in court and as a talking head on news programs has also made him a subject of considerable anger and ridicule among gamers. In a lawsuit filed in Florida on August 29, Thompson said several user groups on Facebook are advocating physical harm against him.

There are literally hundreds of anti-Thompson groups on Facebook, usually with rude but non-threatening names like "Jack Thompson Needs To Stop Using National Tragedy To Promote His Books," or, quicker to the point, "Jack Thompson is a fucking douche."

But Thompson claims Facebook has allowed more insidious material to remain on the website, such as the user group "Jack Thompson should be smacked across the face with an Atari 2600" and another that offers $50 to anyone who punches the former attorney in the face. The latter group has apparently been removed from Facebook since the filing.

Pac-Man compelled them to do it

Thompson claims that on August 27 he sent a fax marked "URGENT" to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding all such postings be removed. That missive was ignored by the executive, according to the complaint, as were two more faxes he sent 11 days later.

Thompson compares his treatment with that of US President Barack Obama. He notes a recent anonymous Facebook poll asking if the country's commander-in-chief should be assassinated was removed from the social website as soon as the company found out about it. Facebook said it's investigating the case with the US Secret Service.

"Unlike our President, Thompson does not have the Secret Service to protect him," the ex-attorney writes in his complaint.

He claims the Obama event demonstrated that Facebook can and does act quickly when a "person who is politically correct" is targeted on the website. "But Facebook's CEO, Mr. Zuckerberg, who was sent and received all three of Thompson's requests for help, conveniently ignores the safety of the undersigned because he does not matter to Mr. Zuckerberg and his successful commercial enterprise," he claims.

His complaint also goes on – at length – to allege unrelated harassment and threats he claims are "orchestrated by the violent video game industry and by video gamers." He accuses the gaming blog GamePolitics.com of actively working with Take-Two lawyers to encourage readers to libel him, and calls the popular gaming web comic Penny Arcade a "video game industry operative" that sent people to Thompson's residential neighborhood to go door-to-door telling his neighbors that he "wanted to repeal the United States Constitution."

Thompson alleges that by allowing similar harassment to remain on Facebook despite his take-down faxes, the company has caused him "great harm and distress, as well as a heightened risk to his personal safety." He seeks at least $120m in damages based charges of negligent infliction of emotion distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision.

Although websites aren't liable for user-submitted material in the US as long as they act swiftly to take it down once they're informed of its existence, Thompson claims his previous demands make Facebook responsible.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here. ®

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