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French blogger fined for ranking too well in Google

     
10:48 am on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've seen it all now. A French blogger wrote against a restaurant in the south of France after having a bad experience, and appeared around fourth in the results when searching for that restaurant. A French judge has now forced the blogger to amend their title to change its ranking and made them pay damages to the restaurant.

[bbc.com...]

[edited by: goodroi at 11:55 am (utc) on Jul 17, 2014]
[edit reason] Added link to news story [/edit]

11:58 am on July 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This is just an emergency ruling before it goes to a full hearing in French court. Since it was an emergency hearing, the blogger had no lawyer to defend her.
5:35 pm on July 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I know of no jurisdiction in the world where it is a priori impossible for an idiot to be appointed judge. Why should France be any different?
7:07 pm on July 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If it was a false review, that would be one thing. But a legitimate bad review hurting a business so the courts step in? C'mon. Fining the blogger before they're even found "guilty" seems a bit ridiculous. They must have some different laws over in France.
2:43 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't think the restaurants serps are going to be much improved now they are littered with news articles about this court case. I certainly wouldn't be eating at restaurant Il Giardin.
11:32 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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They fined a person over something that would have happened even if she didn't own a blog -- provided that her review was honest, it only takes a bit of word of mouth to get a bad business to fail. If you disappoint a client, they won't come back.

Let's see if there are updates on this news in the next weeks. At the moment all we know is that the blogger was fined for a negative review that supposedly almost ruined Il Giardino's business.

P.S. At first glance, it smelled like censorship, so I'll keep an eye out on this.
11:47 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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On google.co.uk the #2 result is titled: "Is Il Giardino in Cap-Ferret the worst restaurant in France?"

Mind you, the first entry, the restaurant Places page, has only 2 stars.
6:40 pm on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Two stars is a lot on the Michelin system, especially if you consider that nobody can afford a 3-star restaurant so they never get reviewed.

But seriously: How many times in the past 5 years has a business increased negative publicity by raising a stink about someone, somewhere saying something negative about them? Seems like there's a new thread every other month.
9:01 pm on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The ruling was just that the heading of the article could be deemed defamatory, that is all. Not that it was ranking high, not that you can't say negative things, nothing like that. The judge just ruled the title should be changed but the PR took an angle to sensationalise it.
9:36 pm on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Simsi
You can't expect people to actually read the summary of the ruling before commenting.
8:02 am on July 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What you have here is the typical fascist canivance. Tourist area with a steady flow of new vistors looking for a place to eat. A local government raking in cash from those tourists simply because they have bigger guns and the mentality to use them. It is a race to the bottom as local government one can safely say that the tourists will continue to come since when they go to visit tourist location two the service will be just as bad and the taxes just as high. Along comes a blogger willing to break the charade and help tourists avoid the biggest cons so the govt gets heavy and reveals its napolenonic tendencies slapping said blogger with a hefty fine to make up lost revenue from their tourist trap. Gone are the days where a tourist might hope to be welcomed into the community, shown the culture and asked about their home. Now it is just a string of hooks dangling in the water ready to exploit the stupid outsiders.
2:33 pm on July 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Along comes a blogger willing to break the charade and help tourists avoid the biggest cons so the govt gets heavy and reveals its napolenonic tendencies slapping said blogger with a hefty fine to make up lost revenue from their tourist trap.


Careful. You could be fined for insulting the French state. (Seriously.)
12:15 am on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Careful. You could be fined for insulting the French state. (Seriously.)

I think the broader test implications are interesting. Key takeaways for me are the issues of defamation and the process' to publish, in this case, on Google/other search engines.

It's interesting that it is the title tag that the Judge required to be altered by the publisher rather than requiring Google to suppress it.

Several time I've mentioned on WebmasterWorld of a case where a person [ who allegedly did very bad things in business ] , had his name plastered all over the internet [ and still does ]. The twist on this was that the information was true, but you'd have to put into question the potential to lynch someone with intense promotion of their misdeeds, above and beyond "normal" legal process'.

It makes me wonder about major review sites as well.
9:11 am on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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According to the French legal expert in the article there is no precedent to be set.

If I were a blogger in France the key takeaway for me would be this: if you're going to name an establishment as "the place to avoid" in a particular town then find the time to instruct a legal advisor and take them to court with you. And also make sure that you are well aware of any of the laws that apply to your profession in the first place before you publish.

To quote the BBC "The summary decision is intended to be an emergency measure to protect the person deemed to be a victim and can be overturned or upheld if the parties go to a full hearing."

To me it smacks of arrogance to publish a review with an inflammatory title, then represent yourself, and then not seek a full hearing but instead complain about how unfair it all is. If she feels wronged, then she should take it to court and make a case before the judge. That's the point of laws and a legal process.
10:03 am on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Careful. You could be fined for insulting the French state. (Seriously.)


I doubt they'd fine you. The French have slightly thicker skins than you suggest.

To me it smacks of arrogance to publish a review with an inflammatory title, then represent yourself, and then not seek a full hearing but instead complain about how unfair it all is.


I wouldn't say so. She is probably wondering if the courts have gone off the deep end fineing bloggers for their opinions. Might aswell cut her losses and leave the courts to deal with more significant issues. I hear Lagarde and Sarkozy are being investigated in yet another case of corruption.
3:08 pm on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I doubt they'd fine you. The French have slightly thicker skins than you suggest.


This documentary might be illuminating:

10e chambre - Instants d'audience
[imdb.com...]
5:33 pm on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It's interesting that it is the title tag that the Judge required to be altered by the publisher

Title tag? As in, the part in <title> markup? The part google changes on a whim?
5:49 pm on July 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Oh My. With this be over-turned. Seems to set a strange precedence. So true about the negative publicity working to their benefit.