Blogger fined by court for negative restaurant review has bigger implications

The European war on Internet freedom is expanding to include the kind of online reviews that have become a part of life for everything from hotel rooms to used car lots — and Italian restaurants on the southeast coast of France.


Two months after the laughably named European Court of Justice ruled that information posted on the Internet is subject to legal restrictions under the “right to be forgotten,” a French court in a separate case has fined an unpaid blogger for writing a negative review  about an Italian place after the restaurant sued the reviewer because the piece was highly ranked in Google searches, according to the BBC,

The restaurant, Il Giardino on Cape Ferret in the Aquitaine province, is in an area heavily dependent on tourism. Its owner argued in court that that search placement hurt its business, BBC reported.

By normal standards, reviewer Caroline Doudet scored a hit by headlining her post with the eye-catching title “The place to avoid in Cape Ferret” – an admirably succinct phrase that includes the kind of key words loved by search engines (because they’re the kinds of words that are actually useful).

By French standards, though, it was too much of a hit. The judge fined Doudet 1,500 euros (about $2,000 U.S.) and ordered her to pay 1,000 euros (about $1,360) in court costs. She also ordered Doudet to change the title of the piece to make it less attractive to Google.

Doudet has paid the fine has removed the post entirely, telling Eater National that it was easier to do that than change the title.

Amazingly enough, the judge also noted that Doudet’s blog, Culur-Elle, has 3,000 followers, according to BBC. That’s a pittance in Internet numbers, of course, but enough apparently in France to convince a judge that a blogger’s sway is dangerous.

And here’s the problem with France, with Europe, and with everyplace in the world that doesn’t have what Americans take for granted still: A Constitution that forbids the government from limiting its citizens’ freedom of speech.

The European Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling from April, and this French court’s decision that judges are now the final editors of what’s allowed to be published or not are as clear a picture of what “Western democracies” without American values really look like.

The crypto-fascists who run the American Democratic Party — whether it’s the IRS targeting conservative groups under Lois Lerner, a Justice Department that threatens to imprison filmmaker  Dinesh D’Souza over campaign finance violations, or Harry Reid’s Senate Dems pushing to overturn the First Amendment — would love America to look like that.

That’s what this is all about.


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