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Judge fines French blogger over bad restaurant review

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In the land of blogs and, of course, on the internet in general, you can write whatever you want, right? Restaurant reviews are more than welcome. Heck that’s what Yelp and UrbanSpoon thrive on. But one blogger, who was operating all on her own, had the law come down on her for what she said about one restaurant.

Caroline Doudet, a French blogger who often writes about literature and fashion, wrote one review of Il Giardino, located in southwestern France. Now, this is something every restaurant has dealt with and will continue to do so for the rest of time. But the owner of this restaurant says that this review has seriously impacted his business simply because Doudet’s review is placed high on a page of Google search results.

The owner of the restaurant decided to sue Doudet over the entire content of the post, taking on a little of that American spirit of “Sue, sue, sue!” and —get this— the judge decided that not only did the blogger have to pay damages of roughly $2,000 but she was also forced to change the title of her blog post and pay $1,350 to cover the complainant’s costs.

The title of the post was “The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret, Il Giardino” and within, she noted poor service and that the owner had a poor attitude. On the owner’s part, he says that it wasn’t so much a review as a complaint that was hurting the business. To avoid fussing with it anymore, Doudet has simply deleted the entire post.

Ars Technica now notes that Google searches for the restaurant now prominently feature the fact that they’ve sued this blogger, which won’t likely fare well among the crowd that searches for reviews online.

Doudet says that the restaurant did not attempt to contact her before beginning with legal action and since the decision was an emergency hearing, she wasn’t given time to find a lawyer and did represent herself.

So does this set a precedent that reviews are only okay if they are positive? Luckily, no. The nature of emergency hearings is that any decisions that come out cannot create a legal precedent. But this is certainly something for bloggers, reviewers and complainers on the internet to think about when they put forth their thoughts online. Doudet ended up paying an incredible amount of money on a bad dining experience.