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Bad Words and Good Samaritans: Defamatory Speech in Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  23 Section 230, Congress wisely decided that plaintiffs should not seek redress from ISPs, but rather from the users who actually make the defamatory statements. By renouncing both publisher and distributor liability, Zeran v. America Online dramatically expands the space for speech on the Internet. Given the explosive growth of the Internet, Zeran has the potential to become just as consequential as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). In the words of Johnson (1997), “This case . . . will be very good for the free flow of information online. And of course it leaves liability where it belongs—in the hands of wrongdoers” (quoted in Schmidt, p. 1).

Authors: Herbeck, Dale.
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Section 230, Congress wisely decided that plaintiffs should not seek redress from ISPs, but rather
from the users who actually make the defamatory statements. By renouncing both publisher and
distributor liability, Zeran v. America Online dramatically expands the space for speech on the
Internet. Given the explosive growth of the Internet, Zeran has the potential to become just as
consequential as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964).
In the words of Johnson (1997), “This case . . . will be very good for the free flow of information
online. And of course it leaves liability where it belongs—in the hands of wrongdoers” (quoted
in Schmidt, p. 1).


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