A video-game maker is suing Microsoft for allegedly failing to protect him from being harassed and cyber-stalked by players of the video-game series Halo.
Russian-born Ezra Romanov, who moved to the United States in 2007 and now resides in New Egypt, New Jersey, describes himself as a prominent member of the Halo gaming community.
In 1998, Romanov, together with his friend Sacha Shibinov, founded an online community that drew together players of the first-person shooter game Unreal.
Originally known as Triple X, the group adopted the name Fist of the Unicorns (FOTUS) in 2012. FOTUS currently has over 43,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel, over 30,000 followers on Twitter, and more than 23,000 members in its private Facebook group, Halo Infinite.
Halo is an American military science fiction franchise managed and developed by 343 Industries and published by Xbox Game Studios, which acts as a division of Microsoft.
According to the complaint, Romanov has been organizing offline and online events designed to bring fans of the game together since 2013. Despite the events being put on to foster a sense of camaraderie among players, the FOTUS founder said he has been targeted with hate mail, and that disturbing letters and packages were sent to his home address.
The gamer also claims to have been the target of unsubstantiated accusations of lewd and illicit behavior.
Romanov has accused Microsoft of breaching its duty by allowing his personal information to be accessed by the malicious actors who have harassed and cyber-stalked him.
The suit claims that Romanov reported the incidents to Microsoft and was told that an investigation would be carried out. However, Romanov claims that the company has taken no action, despite having the power to ban users who engage in such harassment under its terms of service.
It is further alleged that Microsoft refused to cooperate with police investigations into the alleged harassment of Romanov.
Romanov, who is represented by Alexander Schactel of Jersey City, has brought claims for negligence, breach of contract, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He sued in Ocean County Superior Court on October 21, 2020. The suit was moved to federal court on February 25 on behalf of Microsoft.