French Court Criminalizes Food Critic’s Google Success

by Ian Tuttle

I wrote last week about an absurd French court ruling, but they seem to be coming down in droves. The BBC reports:

A French judge has ruled against a blogger because her scathing restaurant review was too prominent in Google search results.

The judge ordered that the post’s title be amended and told the blogger Caroline Doudet to pay damages.

Ms Doudet was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled “the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino”.

According to court documents, the review appeared fourth in the results of a Google search for the restaurant. The judge decided that the blog’s title should be changed, so that the phrase: “the place to avoid” was less prominent in the results.

Doudet will be required to pay $2,000 in damages in addition to changing the blog post’s title. Because the ruling was an “emergency order,” in which a judge can identify harm to a plaintiff and force the defendant to cease the offending activity, this decision does not create legal precedent. But Doudet is still correct that, as she tells the BBC, “This decision creates a new crime of ‘being too highly ranked [on a search engine]‘, or of ‘having too great an influence.’” She does not plan to appeal.

The sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued French critic — Apollinaire, Gautier, Valéry – has long been a mainstay of the arts. No longer, it seems — at least not in his native country. Hélas!