Zeran v. America Online


The 1997 case, Zeran v. America Online, concerned an anonymous posting on an America Online bulletin board.  The posting appeared after the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City; it offered to sell “Oklahoma T-Shirts” bearing offensive slogans (two of the least offensive being, “Rack’em, Stack’em, Pack’em” and “Visit Oklahoma—It’s A Blast”).  Zeran’s home phone given as the contact.  Zeran had no connection with the posting.  As a result of the posting Zeran’s life became a nightmare.  His phone rang constantly; callers expressed outrage, and some threatened to kill him.  The constant calls prevented him from conducting the business which he ran from his home.


Zeran sued AOL for defamation.  To see the effect of CDA § 230, ask:  Is AOL is the “provider . . . of an interactive computer service”?


(a) Yes


(b) No