Zeran v. America Online
Date: April 23, 1996
Court: W.D. Oklahoma
Case #: 5:96-CV-00598; 1:96CV01564 (EDVA); 97-1523 (4th Circuit)
Issues: Defamation and Negligence
After the Oklahoma City bombing an anonymous person posted an ad on an America Online Bulletin selling t-shirts making light of the event. Within the post was the name Kenneth Zeran along with his phone number. After filing a complaint, AOL removed the post but offered no retraction post. Zeran filed a lawsuit based on negligence and defamation against AOL claiming that they were responsible for the post. In March of 2007 an Oklahoma district court dismissed the case (Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 958 F. Supp. 1124 (E.D. Va. 1997).
On Novemeber 12, 1997 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that AOL should not be held accountable for the posting based on Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency act. This act protects ISPs from liability of content and gives them the status of a distributor not a publisher.