Disability law in the U.S. is so outdated that there’s very little clarity when it comes to digital accessibility.
|Stephen Harrison||Apr 20|
The subreddit r/legaladvice is supposed to be Reddit’s space to ask simple legal questions. That’s why so many of the threads revolve around subjects like taxes, housing, employment, or family law—common issues where the legal framework has gradually developed over a long period of time. But every once in a while, somebody posts a legal question that energizes the Reddit community with its seeming pathos and originality.
That was the case recently when a user going by the name poelegalthrowaway00 posted a question describing unique challenges that they faced with the video game Path of Exile, a hugely popular action role-playing game set in the dark fantasy world of Wraeclast. The user wrote:
I can’t use one hand and some fingers on the other after an industrial accident. I do things on the computer using mouse and 3 foot pedals. I play this game called Path of Exile, and in the game you need to refresh 4 potion buffs every 3-8 seconds. I physically can’t press 4 keys every few seconds so I use a macro that automatically does it for me.
The poster described the macro as a workaround to help with their physical disability and claimed “I literally physically can’t play without it.” The poster alleged that they had been banned by Path of Exile because the video game’s terms of service prohibit the use of automated software or bots to assist with game play. Moreover, the poster said that they had contacted the video game publisher and that the company had denied their request for a special accommodation. The question posed to the r/legaladvice community, then, was whether the poster could bring a successful legal case under relevant disability law.
My latest story features legal and video game insights from:
Blake Reid & Doron Dorfman, professors of technology policy and disability law
Fredrick Brennan, founder of 8chan
Thomas Reddin, a partner at the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright
Thanks to them! Twitter link here.
Book Notes: Silicon Values
I reviewed Jillian York’s book Silicon Values, which reveals how major tech platforms have struggled with issues of content moderation and censorship. York's coverage is especially strong when discussing the Middle East, exposing how Silicon Valley has allied itself with the powers-that-be to benefit the corporate bottom line even at the cost of repressing free expression in the region. Because York has been covering content moderation for so long, she was able to include several historical examples that illustrate how social media companies often take an ad hoc approach. At times, I wished York could include more characterizing details about the leaders in Silicon Valley, including Nicole “The Decider” Wong, who served as Google’s assistant general counsel. But most of all, I was impressed by how York consistently argued the case in favor of free expression over censorship.