The facts: Caroline Doudet of the Cultur’elle blog in France has received a fine from a Bordeaux judge over the Google search placement of a negative restaurant review. At issue in the case was piece on Cultur’elle titled “The Place to Avoid in Cap Ferret: Il Giardino,” which stemmed from an unfortunate August 2013 visit to the Italian restaurant in the Aquitaine region of France. In classic bad-service-narrating form, Doudet chronicled all the slipups and general incompetence of the servers who waited on Doudet’s party, which included a failure to ask Doudet & Co. if they wanted drinks. The restaurant’s proprietors acknowledged service glitches but complained that the search results for the piece were harming its business. The judge ordered a change in the title of the piece, which is no longer on the site. “Cultur’elle,” noted the judge, has 3,000 followers, a “significant number” in the court’s view, according to the BBC. Doudet’s tab for all this? About $3,400, including the fine and the bill for the restaurant’s expenses.
The Impact: In an e-mail to L’Erique Wemple Blogueur, Doudet writes, “I will never say bad things, it’s too dangerous!”
The owner of Il Giardino is quoted on the Web site Arret Sur Images as blasting this nasty “blogueuse.” The posting, she argues, is more an insult than a critique: “She writes an article in which she characterizes one of my servers as a harpy. I can’t let that happen. Perhaps there were some service errors, which happens sometimes in the middle of August — I recognize that. But this article surged on Google results and did more and more damage to my business.”
In other words: The truth hurts.
After writing the review, Doudet tells this blogueur, she received “some [comments] from people who disagree with my text, and one of insult, but nothing from the owners.” More from Doudet: “The restaurant never dispute the facts, only the words.”
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.”
That’s a concern that the French system of civil justice apparently doesn’t share. According to the BBC, however, the decision will have no precedential value in the French courts: “Under French law, a judge can issue an emergency order to force a person to cease any activity they find to be harming the other party in the dispute.”