Business

Why a French court fined a food blogger $3,400 for criticizing a restaurant

The French are having a hard time adjusting to technology. Just this year alone, they’ve banned Amazon from free shipping and forced Google to advertise a privacy fine on their homepage. Earlier this month, it upped its fight against information technology, as a French court ordered a food blogger to pay a 2,500-euro fine for an overly critical blog about the Il Giardino Italian restaurant.

The review, which roughly translates into “The Place To Avoid In Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino” was eventually taken down (here’s a chached version available via the Internet Archive). Apparently, the court had no issue with a negative review itself, rather that the review was both popular on Google and insulting to the business.

“The customers have shown us the blog page and they said they had been reluctant to come after this criticism,” explained the manager. The restaurants lawyer echoed this complaint, “This restaurant is especially popular with young people. … This has caused great harm to my client.”

That is, the criticism would have been ignored had it not been so popular on Google. Roughly translated, the lawyer explained “This was a problem that was not she said — she writes what she wants — but the title and SEO article were problematic.”

So, what should the post have been titled? Blogging lawyer Master Eolas told Le Express that had the title included something like “after careful consideration” then the court may have let it slide. But, as a brazen attack on a restaurant, it violated French law.

Hence, the court found that the blogger ran afoul of public defamation laws. In addition to attacking the restaurant, the blogger also described the manager as a “diva.”

France, it seems, distrusts the very concept of the “marketplace of ideas,” the 250-year-old philosophical premise that the free exchange of ideas is enough to foster meaningful dialog without need for government intervention. And, France is not alone in the distrust of the market place. Brazil also has a notoriously strict campaign-speech law that attempts to prevent insults against those running for elected office. This is one of the reasons why Brazil ranks so high on transparency reports comparing governments by the number of censorship requests.

Some governments seem to believe the Internet needs to be policed and that courts should determine what is good and bad speech.


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14 comments
Martin Lagache
Martin Lagache

Another precision if people don't understand what I'm saying : a judge is here to judge, not defend a party or the other.

Martin Lagache
Martin Lagache

please, stop making such degrading generalizations about France and french government. We're talking about a girl that wrote a critic on her private blog about a bad experience in a restaurant, got a lot of attention online, which logically upsetted the restaurant owner. Where the fuck is "adjusting to technology" in consideration here? Bottom line of the story (which you fail to mention, good job), the girl went in court without any legal advisor (NO lawyer) and didn't even appeal of the decision!! You go to court without any legal advisor and you don't know shit about law, do you think you have any chances to win the procedure? I read comment about how "evil is strong these days" (Art Vuilleumier)... great image you give from America. No comment. source: (careful it's in french (evil!!) - read the last paragraph) http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/1222449-une-blogueuse-condamnee-pour-une-critique-de-restaurant-une-decision-de-faible-portee.html

Martin Mignot
Martin Mignot

Ridiculous how every single small decision from a French court or government gets generalised by some foreign press as "French don't get technology". Please do you research about the tech scene in France (which is doing fairly well, thanks for asking) and how foreign tech companies are doing there (probably one of the best markets for uber, Airbnb and a multitude of other disruptive SV businesses) before printing that kind of stupid blanket statement. Or maybe you would also say that Americans can't adjust to technology because NYC banned Airbnb?

Nicholas M. Cummings
Nicholas M. Cummings

I should bookmark b*llsh*t like this for every time a French person talks down on how Americans do things

Antoine Faisandier
Antoine Faisandier

I don't think it has to do with reluctance to technology. This is more a legal matter regarding public communication. This would be the same issue if it would have happened with a traditional newspaper...

Matthieu Lépine
Matthieu Lépine

Even if the food Blogger has been condemned, it is a typical 'Streisand' effect for the restaurant. The worst ad you can imagine.

Fdl Lcr
Fdl Lcr

So there will be no Yelp in france...

Jean Diliwan
Jean Diliwan

Adrien Marchandise everyone is free to tell whatever he wants, the restaurant should invite her again and show her another specialities, and maybe she would reconsidered her review, but u know france is no more a democratic state

Adrien Marchandise
Adrien Marchandise

It's not about the technology, it's about the quality of the review. However I find this judgement abusive, the lady who wrote the critic was clearly attacking the restaurant rather violently. There are a set of laws in France that defin how a critic should be written, this writer did not respect them, she got fined. But yes this court settlement is abusive.

Art Vuilleumier
Art Vuilleumier

Just another form of tyranny ... evil is VERY strong these days ...

marc verstaen
marc verstaen

Wait, there's more! France is contagious: even in the US, Tesla can't sell it's car the way it sees fit, and AirBnB can't work in New York. What a world...