French judge orders food blogger to pay €2500 for writing negative review

Caroline Doudet was fined after a judge ruled that her blog post damaged the restaurant's business

A French food blogger has been fined thousands of euros and ordered to change the title of a negative review after a judge ruled that the piece appeared too prominently on Google.

Caroline Doudet wrote the post titled “The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino” in August 2013, with the review appearing fourth in searchesfor the restaurant’s name.

The restaurant’s owners sued Ms Doudet six months later, arguing that the article was hurting their business and the judge ordered Ms Doudet to change the title of the blog and pay €2,500 (£2000) in damages and costs earlier this month.

Speaking to the website Eater, Ms Doudet said that she stood by the review’s judgement but regrets “not having left the restaurant from the beginning and therefore never having written the article. That would have been easier.”

Ms Doudet has since deleted the article as that was “simpler than just modifying the title on its own” although the review has been cached and is still available to read online, detailing the poor service and “diva” attitude of the owner.

Arrêt sur Images reports that the case is the first example in France of an unpaid blogger being forced to pay damages for a negative review, although the French lawyer and blogger Maître Eolas has added that the decision does not establish legal precedence under French law.

The decision by the judge was instead carried out as an emergency measure intended to identify a wrong no the defendant’s part – in this case Ms Doudet’s damage to the business of Il Giardino.

Nevertheless, Ms Doudet believes that there is growing problem surrounding freedom of speech in France, noting that “recently several writers in France were sentenced in similar proceedings for defamation, invasion of privacy, and so on."

“I find it really serious if we no longer have the freedom to write," she said. "I don't see the point of criticism if it's only positive. It's clear that online, people are suspicious of places that only get positive reviews."

On the French version of TripAdvisor Il Giardino currently has an average review rating of one and a half stars.

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