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Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law

From late April through early May of 1995, Ken Zeran was the victim of an aggressive online attack—what we would now call a cyber-harassment or “e-personation,” though at the time we lacked this nomenclature. The attacker was pseudonymous, and AOL deleted the relevant server logs (pursuant to what AOL said was standard practice) that might have helped reveal the attacker. (Note: for this essay I’ll assume it was a single person and not multiple attackers, though that too remains unknown.) Zeran sued AOL and the Oklahoma radio station KRXO for their roles in the cyber-harassment, but he never sued the actual perpetrator. Indeed, over two decades later, the perpetrator remains unknown. This has emerged as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in internet law: who attacked Ken Zeran, and why?

As part of researching this question, I reviewed the 717-page transcript of AOL defense lawyer Pat Carome deposing Ken Zeran on Feb. 18-20, 1997. Plaintiff lawyer James Ikard represented Zeran at the deposition. The deposition transcript of Ken Zeran was never filed with the court and is not generally publicly available. It doesn’t answer the “whodunit” question, but it does suggest some clues.

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