Metro

Appeals Court won’t rule on free speech issue in Gamergate case

The Massachusetts Appeals Court on Thursday refused to decide whether a man’s on-line post about his video game designer ex-girlfriend - writings that allegedly sparked death and threats of rape against her - were protected by the First Amendment.

Zoe Tiberius Quinn and Eron Gjoni were once romantically linked but when the relationship ended around 2014, Gjoni wrote what the court called a “lengthy screed’’ and posted it online.

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Quinn, who was formerly known as Chelsea Van Valkenburg, sought a restraining order based on Gjoni’s treatment of her and on the grounds that Gjoni’s writings sparked others to make “death and rape threats’’ against her, the court noted.

A Boston Municipal Court judge in 2014, citing what he called “hate mobs” targeting Quinn because of Gjoni’s postings, barred posting “any further information about [Quinn] or her personal life online or to encourage ‘hate mobs,’ ” according to court records.

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However, Quinn later returned to court and asked for the termination of the restraining order because attention to the case had increased the number of attacks she was receiving from third parties, the court said.

Lowers courts ordered law enforcement to destroy all copies of the restraining order, but Gjoni wanted higher courts to address his contention that his First Amendment rights had been violated when he was barred from writing about Quinn under the restraining order.

In an unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel rejected Gjoni’s request.

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“Gjoni seeks to press on appeal his claim that the no posting requirement infringed on his First Amendment rights. At this time, neither party retains anything but an academic interest in those issues, which go to the scope of the now terminated order,’’ Judge James R. Milkey. “We therefore decline to reach them.’’

The litigation between Quinn and Gjoni took place against the backdrop of death threats against women in the video gaming industry, threats that were so severe that Boston police assigned extra officers in 2015 to the PAX East convention at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center because designer Brianna Wu had been repeatedly threatened with death and sexual violence.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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