Court Fines French Blogger $3,400 For Her Negative Review Of Local Italian Restaurant, Il Giardino
from the enjoy-your-cash,-idiots...-and-your-demolished-reputation dept
Here’s yet another business that, when confronted with a negative review, thought to itself, “Why not deter EVEN MORE potential patrons from ever considering setting foot in our establishment?” There are many ways to react to criticism, and Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant located in France, opted for “catastrophic.”
A food blogger in France has been fined 1500 euros ($2,040 USD) for writing a negative review of a restaurant. According to Arret Sur Images (translated), Caroline Doudet wrote an unflattering review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles. She was brought to court six months later by the restaurant.
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. As far as I can tell from the translation, Doudet portrayed the lousy service she encountered in a far more humorous fashion than most negative reviews, all the while clearly pointing out the deficiencies she encountered.
So, rather than address the issues, or simply disregard the single voice complaining about the three waitpersons apparently needed to acquire a single round of beverages (not to mention quality issues with the food [and service] past that point), Il Giardino decided to make its mégot mal a full-blown legal affair.
It all comes back to European supervillain The Google.
Sud Ouest reports (translated) that the lawyer for the restaurant claims that the post caused “great harm” to his client because when the restaurant was Googled, the negative review was one of the first results.
Ah, yes. SEO uber alles (he said, fearlessly mixing European dialects like a trainspotting linguist). Great harm was apparently suffered and, therefore, the person who received lousy service from the aggrieved entity must pay. The court apparently agreed with this faulty line of logic (possibly due to Google’s name being raised [and presumably greeted with involuntary hisses by attending countrymen]) and slapped the blogger with a hefty fine and a request that she “change the title” of the offending post.
Doudet did them all one better. She deleted it. It lives on at the Internet Archive, but won’t be troubling search engine results to the extent it once did. Not that it matters. Il Giardino’s decision to sue is hurting it far more than Doudet’s post did.
Doudet was also charged $1,360 in court costs, bringing her total fines to a positively KlearGearian level of vindictive ridiculousness ($3,400).
There are too many things wrong with this court decision to enumerate, but Doudet’s take on the fiasco sums it up beautifully.
“If bloggers do not have the freedom to write negative reviews, positive reviews make no sense either.”
If businesses like Il Giardino want to continue living a “hear no evil” existence, that’s fine. But no one should believe anything positive posted about the restaurant anywhere — not if this is how the business reacts when it’s criticized. Every so often, something truly defamatory should be addressed in this fashion, but just being criticized shouldn’t trigger this sort of reaction. If the restaurant’s Google juice is so diluted it can’t outweigh a blogger, the problem lies with the restaurant, not the critic. Now that it’s punished a critic, its reputation has gone completely south, something that wouldn’t have happened if it had just accepted the fact that bad reviews happen and moved on.