A restaurant owner in France thought a bad review on a blog was damaging enough to sue for libel. Surprisingly, the restaurateur won. A judge fined amateur food writer Caroline Doudet $3,300, and ordered her to change the title of the article, which originally warned customers: “The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino.”
Despite winning on the day, it’s debatable whether the case will turn out to be much of a victory for the owners of Il Giardino, a pizza restaurant in the French town of Cap-Ferret. The case was brought on the basis that Doudet’s review, which complained of terrible customer service and bad food, appeared too high (fourth) in Google search results and was therefore damaging the business.
Now, when you search for Il Giardino, Trip Advisor’s mixed reviews are still at the top of the page, but directly below are articles damning the restaurant not just for its food and service, but for litigating against a dissatisfied customer. The third result down now asks if Il Giordino is the worst restaurant in France, while another prominent result suggests customers boycott it.
“I find it really serious if we no longer have the freedom to write,” said Doudet. “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.”
Even though Doudet removed the whole article, it can still be viewed in archived form. While the ruling is frustrating for Doudet, not many food writers can say their review was banned from Google.