September 16, 2020 Feature

Combating Internet Trolls: The Right of Publicity and Section 230

Jess Miers and Brian L. Frye

©2020. Published in Landslide, Vol. 13, No. 1, September/October 2020, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Who do you sue when the tortfeasor is anonymous? The website is a tempting alternative, but a vital internet law—§ 230—thwarts this path to relief.

Who do you sue when the tortfeasor is anonymous? The website is a tempting alternative, but a vital internet law—§ 230—thwarts this path to relief.

Photographer: grinvalds | Collection: iStock | Getty Images Plus

The bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City tragically shook the nation on April 19, 1995. This horrific act of domestic terrorism claimed the lives of 168 people, including 19 children, and injured hundreds more. Just six days after the bombing, AOL user “Ken ZZ03” posted an appalling message to the Michigan Military Movement message board, offering T-shirts and merchandise emblazoned with slogans such as “Visit Oklahoma . . . It’s a BLAST!!!,” “Putting the kids to bed . . . Oklahoma 1995,” and “McVeigh for President 1996” for purchase—just call “Ken.” The post included Ken Zeran’s actual phone number, inviting abuse from understandably appalled AOL users. However, Zeran had nothing to do with the post; he was a victim of internet trolling.

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