Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The challenges of Internet defamation in the US and China


Political Science Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


With the rise of social media, the challenges of Internet defamation appear to be very similar in the US and China: Damaging rumors spring daily onto the net on a global scale, but the laws in these countries have lagged. The challenges facing the two countries are fundamentally different. New York Times v. Sullivan subordinated reputation to free expression, although Dun & Bradstreet did protect private individuals. In Snyder v. Phelps (2011), which involved the Westboro Baptist Church, the Court reserved the question of harm to reputation due to Internet postings. In China, the right to reputation has been extolled in the past twenty years as fundamental to human dignity while freedom of expression was intentionally overlooked. Due to the opaqueness of its politics, moreover, rumors enjoy a much larger market in China than in the US. As a result, the two countries face different issues when dealing with Internet defamation. For the US the key issue is how to sustain free expression while protecting reputation and privacy. For China, the issue is how to maintain its emphasis on the right to reputation while redefining its boundary by bringing in freedom of expression.

Conference Name

Midwest Law & Society Retreat

Conference Location

Madison, Wisconsin

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