We seriously need to do some compulsory education of the legal profession around the world, judging by this unbelievable court judgment in France. A French judge, who is unfortunately not named, has ruled that a negative review of a restaurant called Il Giardino in Cap-Ferret, which had the title “the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino”, was overly critical and should be toned down. The judge also fined the writer. Incredible.
Apparently, according to the BBC report, the real crime was the fact that the writer’s blog, Cultur’elle, was too popular as it had 3000 followers, and what’s more the review ranked too highly in Google search results, since it ended up in fourth position on the first page. The reviewer, a Ms Doudet, was also ordered to pay a fine of €1500, and alter the title. The mind boggles.
Unfortunately for the judge, and the restaurant, it looks as though the Streisand Effect has just kicked in full time, since the the popular Yelp review site currently has Il Giardino with just 2 measly stars, and the first review on there starts with, “Terrible does not describe the service…” The poor hapless owner is definitely going to regret bringing the lawsuit.
The real problem with this kind of ridiculous micro-management of the Web is it’s total disregard of reality. The fact is any proper ‘journalist’ would be allowed to print a bad review of a restaurant as part of their job, without fear of being fined and censured. But because it’s a blogger, the courts think they have a right to stamp out the right to comment. It’s completely unfair and arbitrary, and really this type of thing needs to be dealt with by some sort of global online charter in order for people to be protected.
“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. “What is perverse, is that we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people,” she added.