Food For Thought: Has French Law Criminalized Ranking and Popularity on Search Engine’s in Recent?

@ pour symboliser l'internet
Symbole de l’internet

French Food Blogger Caroline Doudet was ordered to amend her blog review of II Giardino, a restaurant in the Aquitaine region of the South of France and pay thousands of Euros in damages to cover harm to the business and the complainant’s costs.  The owner of the restaurant, who has been working on building and maintaining its reputation seven days a week for a total of fifteen years , took issue with the entire article, however, the decision was limited to the blog posts title, “the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: II Giardino”.  Nevertheless, according to Doudet in a BBC interview, the “decision creates a new crime of ‘being too highly ranked [on a search engine], or of having too great an influence.’

Ms. Doudet’s fashion and literature blog, “Cultur’elle” has roughly 3000 followers.  These followers, as well as the general public with access to the site could have discovered from her post that she received poor serviceduring her visit in August of 2013 with particular regard to the owner, who was described as having a poor attitude.  The restaurateur commented on the website Arrêt sur Images that, “maybe there were some errors in the service, which happens sometimes in the middle of August.” Moreover, the restaurateur was extremely troubled by the fact that the article showed in Google search results and that the criticism was not appropriately done.

So, what are the effects of this decision, if any? 

Despite the fact that Ms. Doudet has brought forward the idea that she is being penalized for having too great of an influence as a blogger, currently, under French law, this type of decision does not create legal precedent.  An emergency order can be issued by a judge to force a person to cease any activity they find to be harming the other party in the dispute.  This is done to protect a person who is deemed to be a victim in a given situation.  To issue such an order under French law requires a judge to identify a wrong on the defendant’s part, a negative effect on that of the appellant and a causal relationship between the two.

In terms of an appeal, Ms. Doudet, who pleaded her own case in court, has stated she will not appeal further.  Although French law remains relatively unchanged, this decision surely acts as a warning sign to bloggers to mind what they say, and where they eat!