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Zeran v. AOL

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Citation Edit

Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

The plaintiff claimed that an unidentified third-party had posted statements on a message board advertising t-shirts that glorified the Oklahoma City bombing and giving the plaintiff's telephone number. As a result, Zeran was inundated by irate callers. Plaintiff complained to AOL, which delayed taking the message down and refused to issue a retraction or to screen for similar subsequent postings.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

The Fourth Circuit gave an expansive reading of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Court held Section 230 preempted plaintiff's defamation and related claims, that AOL could not be treated as the publisher of the statements, and that even AOL's decision not to remove the post did not render it a publisher.

The court said:

Congress' purpose in providing the [Act's] immunity [is] evident. Interactive computer services have millions of users. . . . The specter of tort liability in an area of such prolific speech would have an obvious chilling effect.[1]

References Edit

  1. 129 F.3d at 129.

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