A french blogger - Ms Doudet - has been successfully sued by a restaurateur, the owner of Il Giardino, for writing an August 2013 blog entry about poor service and staff attitude at the restaurant.
The Judge presiding the case ruled the the fashion and literature blog entry should have it's title changed to avoid harm to the business, the blog had about 3,000 followers according to the evidence presented. The Judge ordered Ms Doudet to change the title and fined her €1,5000 (approx £1,200 $2,000). The owner had wanted the whole article removed.
The article has since been removed and Ms Doudet has been quoted as saying:
This decision creates a new crime of 'being too hightly ranked [on a search engine]', or of haing too much influence. What is peverse, is that we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people...
The restaurateur has been quoted as saying:
Maybe there were some errors in the service, that sometimes happens in August...
But this article showed in the Google search results and did my business more and more harm, even though we have worked sevens days a week for 15 years. I could not except that.
What does this mean for bloggers?
In the long run it will mean very little I suspect, a one off lawsuit that captured the worlds attention momentarily. I doubt it will become a part of law in France or anywhere else that writing bad reviews will be illegal or open you to similar law suits. In fact I am sure that just changing the title would have little effect on the ranking for the restaurant name. Thankfully the judge also ruled out censoring the actual article, which is good news for freedom of speach. I wonder though whether the ruling was more aligned at popular bloggers who write bad reviews, who should perhaps think a bit more before they post. As was said in the Spiderman movie "With great power comes great responsibility".
Happy blogging everyone!