A long-time critic of the video game industry has sued Facebook for US$40 million, saying that the social networking site harmed him by not removing angry postings made by Facebook gamers.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Jack Thompson.
Thompson is best know for bringing suit against Grand Theft Auto's Take Two Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Wal-Mart, arguing that the game caused violent behavior. In 2005 episode of CBS's 60 Minutes, Thompson likened the popular video game to a "murder simulator" and blamed it for the 2003 shooting deaths of two police officers and a 911 dispatcher in Fayette, Alabama.
That suit was eventually dismissed, and Thompson's critics accuse him of being a frivolous litigator. Last year he was ordered permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court, which said he had made "abusive and frivolous filings."
None of these activities has made him many friends on Facebook, where there are literally hundreds of groups -- most with just a handful of members -- dedicated to him. The less-offensive sounding ones have names such as I Hate Jack Thompson, Stop Jack Thompson, and Disbar Jack Thompson.
But Thompson says that some of the posts are dangerous and have caused him "great harm and distress."
For example, he cites the group Jack Thompson should be smacked across the face with an Atari 2600 in his lawsuit.
Another link -- now apparently removed from Facebook -- reads: "I will pay $50 to anyone who punches Jack Thompson in the face. If someone can get a video clip of themselves punching Jack Thompson in the face I'll PayPal them $50."
In his court filing, Thompson says he's been harassed ever since the 60 Minutes episode. His house has been shot at, his car vandalized, and he's had "sex aid devices sent to his home." At night, he has to take his phone off the hook to keep from being awakened by angry callers.
Citing Facebook's recent decision to remove a poll asking if U.S. President Barack Obama should be shot, Thompson demands the same treatment for his detractors in the lawsuit. "Unlike our President, Thompson does not have the Secret Service to protect him," he writes.
Thompson's suit has little chance of success, according to Parry Aftab, a cyber-law attorney who is Executive director of Wiredsafety.org, a cyber safety and help group.That's because the U.S. Communications Decency Act makes it clear that companies like Facebook have no liability for what people do with their services. "They are no more liable than the phone company would be for anyone who is calling in a ransom demand," she said.