Salil K. Mehra


In the United States, criminal libel is all but dead. American law professors only write about it to denounce the continued existence of rarely enforced criminal libel statutes. In Japan, however, criminal libel laws have become vital tools in policing injurious speech on the Internet. Defamatory posts lead to police intervention and even arrest. Because the United States is considering regulation of online speech, potentially including criminal penalties, we can learn from the experience of Japan. From a positive perspective, this Article explains why Japan applies such laws to the Internet. From a normative perspective, the Article addresses why broadly extending existing criminal libel law onto the Internet is not a good choice for Japan. Finally, from a comparative law perspective, this Article discusses why a similar move would be an even worse choice for the United States than Japan.