61 Alb. L. Rev. 147 (1997-1998)
Zeran v. AOL and the Effect of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act upon Liability for Defamation on the Internet

handle is hein.journals/albany61 and id is 161 raw text is: ZERAN v. AOL AND THE EFFECT OF SECTION 230 OF
THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT UPON
LIABILITY FOR DEFAMATION ON THE INTERNET
David R. Sheridan*
I. INTRODUCTION
Many interactive computer services,' such as America Online
(AOL), CompuServe, and Prodigy operate bulletin boards, or forums,
which allow subscribers to post messages that may be read and
replied   to  by   other   subscribers.      On    the   Internet,2   USENET
newsgroups and mailing lists, or listservs, provide bulletin boards
that are accessible even to those who do not subscribe to services
such as AOL.3 For years, newspapers have provided a similar
* Copyright 1997 by Albany Law Review and David R. Sheridan, Partner, Bond, Schoeneck
& King, LLP, Albany, New York; A.B., Cornell University, 1970; J.D., magna cum laude,
University of Buffalo, 1977.
1 For purposes of this discussion, an interactive computer service may be defined as any
information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer
access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that
provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or
educational institutions. Communications Decency Act of 1996,47 U.S.C.A. § 230(e)(2) (West
Supp. 1997) [hereinafter CDA]. This definition includes everything from the Internet to an
office intranet with one server and two PCs.
2 A selection of definitions: The Internet is not a physical or tangible entity, but rather a
giant network which interconnects innumerable smaller groups of linked computer networks.
ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 830 (E.D. Pa. 1996), affd, 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997).
Technically, a computer is on the Internet if it uses TCP/IP network protocol to exchange data
with other computers on the largest worldwide TCP/IP network (that's the only exact
definition, and as you can see, it doesn't say much). STEVE LAMBERT & WALT HOWE, INTER-
NET BAsics 2 (1993). See also ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. at 830-38 (discussing the nature
of cyberspace). The Internet can be thought about in relation to its common protocols, as a
physical collection of routers and circuits, as a set of shared resources, or even as an attitude
about interconnecting and intercommunication. E. Krol & E. Hoffman, FYI on 'What is the
Internet? (last modified Apr. 15, 1996) <http://rs.internic.net> (access the document by
searching the web site by the title).
' See ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. at 832-35 (discussing connections and USENET); see also
Cornell Academic Technology Services, WinVN (last modified Aug. 13, 1996) <http://www.cit.
cornell.edu/cit-pubs/netnews/winvn.html> (stating Usenet news ... is an enormous worldwide
distributed electronic bulletin board system.). For a brief, semi-official description of
USENET, see Gary Scott Malkin et al., Answers to Commonly Asked 'New Internet User
Questions (last modified Apr. 15, 1996) <http://internic.net> (access the document by searching

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