A French blogger Caroline Doudet has been fined €1,500 for writing a negative blog which was being featured highly on Google searches. In addition to the €1,500 fine she had to pay €1,000 in court costs, totalling the bill for writing a negative review as blog post to €2,500. The blog was about a restaurant, Il Giardino in Cap-Ferret, south-west France.
The blog told an August 2013 visit to the Italian restaurant in the Aquitaine region of France. Doudet’s review is actually a blog post, one that would require readers to do a little digging to get past the normal review sites.
Here’s the chached version available via the Internet Archive.
The blogger was sued for the entire article. However, the verdict was limited to the headline of the article, which Doudet was ordered to change. It was headlined: “The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret, Il Giardino”. However, the entire article was deleted instead of just the headline.
According to French website Arrêt sur Images, the restaurant’s owner admitted that the service Doudet received may not have been perfect, but that the article was “more of an insult than criticism” and was doing his business harm when it appeared in Google searches.
The blogger seemingly did not get time to find a lawyer and so had to represent herself as the the restaurant did not contact her about the post before beginning legal proceedings.
In an e-mail to L’Erique Wemple Blogueur, Doudet writes, “I will never say bad things, it’s too dangerous!” This incident does work as a strong detriment for people to exercise their freedom of speech and expression. As she goes about her writing, Doudet notes, “I can’t value the impact on my writing, I think it will be unaware, but I’m afraid I will censor myself.”
“This decision creates a new crime of ‘being too highly ranked [on a search engine]‘, or of having too great an influence’,” Ms Doudet told the BBC.
As it was an emergency hearing, the decision will not create a legal precedent under French law.
This is a typical case where good reputation management will help business owners to avoid these situations:
Instead of acting proactively, engaging positively with the blogger and the community, the owner's law suit triggered exactly the contrary: The case went public globally and the bad publicity for Il Giardino multiplied many times. This is also known as the 'Streisand effect'.