I normally would post my work here for posterity when I finished it, but my latest assignment was actually due online as a Wikipedia article.
I chose to flesh out the Zeran v. AOL article, and man was it a lot of work. You take for granted the amount of labor that goes into a Wikipedia article until you write one yourself.
The case itself is pretty interesting, if I do say so myself. It’s one of the main cases that granted immunity to websites from the postings of third parties. What happened was that somebody posted some inflammatory T-shirts on an AOL bulletin board in 1995, and put down Kenneth Zeran’s name and phone number. He got hundreds of phone calls threatening and berating him, and decided to sue AOL as a result for distributing defamatory materials.
Unfortunately for Zeran though, between the time that the materials were posted, and the time that he sued, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which pretty much covers AOL’s back (and google’s, and yahoo’s, and youtube’s, and pretty much everybody else’s).
Sucks to be Zeran, but in the words of one article on the subject, “It…illustrates a hard fact of life: Sometimes there is no legal remedy for those who suffer wrongs.”
Interestingly, after all this, Zeran’s phone number is still on whitepages.com. I wonder if he knows…
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