Zeran v. AOL may not be a household name, but it is the Internet’s most important landmark ruling. This seminal court case, which was the first to consider the meaning and scope of §230 of the Communications Decency Act, has been a pillar of the legal framework that has permitted revolutionary services such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter to exist and thrive. Under Zeran, websites are generally immune from liability for unlawful or harmful third-party content. Put simply, this precedent is largely responsible for the Internet as we know it.

Over the past two decades, Zeran has been cited in over 250 judicial opinions and discussed in hundreds of law review articles. Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III’s masterful opinion in Zeran has also stood the test of time. Virtually every U.S. Court of Appeals, and many state supreme courts, have looked to the decision as a reliable key for understanding the reach and meaning of the statute. The Supreme Court has denied dozens of cert petitions seeking to call Zeran and its progeny into question, including in Doe v. Backpage earlier this year. And Congress, in the course of enacting subsequent legislation extending the reach of §230, has hailed the decision as having “correctly interpreted” the statute.

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