Global Freedom of Expression

Virginie v. Doudet

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    June 30, 2014
  • Outcome
    Monetary Damages / Fines, Administrative Measures/ Administrative Sanctions to protect FoE
  • Case Number
    N/A
  • Region & Country
    France, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Civil Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Blog, Internet, On-line Expression, Search Engines, Google

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In 2013, a French blogger posted her negative review of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France. In her blog, she complained of the restaurant’s poor service and its co-owners’ poor attitude towards guests. The co-owners sued the blogger after her review appeared fourth in the Google search results of the restaurant. The High Court of Bordeaux issued an emergency order against the blogger to change the title of her blog, pay 1500 euros in damages, and 1000 euros for legal costs to the owners of the restaurant.

Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global Freedom of Expression notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Facts

Caroline Doudet, a 35-year-old blogger, posted a blog, entitled “The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino,” referring to Il Giardino restaurant she visited in early August of 2013. [1] The blog contained her negative review of the restaurant as she complained of its poor service and what she perceived as the owners’ poor treatment of guests. [2] The review later appeared fourth in the Google search result of the restaurant. [3]

Subsequently, the co-owners of the restaurant brought a lawsuit against Doudet, alleging that her review significantly damaged their business. [4] They contended that her negative review was more of an insult than fair criticism and its high Google results ranking was doing more and more harm to their business everyday. [5]

[1] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.

[2] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.

[3] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.

[4] French News Online, Bloggers Beware! A Too Critical Review Could Bring Costly Damages in Bordeaux, (July 19, 2014), http://www.french-news-online.com/wordpress/?p=37149#axzz3lBFR9WOt.

[5] French News Online, Bloggers Beware! A Too Critical Review Could Bring Costly Damages in Bordeaux, (July 19, 2014), http://www.french-news-online.com/wordpress/?p=37149#axzz3lBFR9WOt.

 

 


Decision Overview

The High Court of Bordeaux issued an emergency order, requiring the blogger to change the title of her blog so that the phrase “The place to avoid” would be less prominent in the Google search results of the restaurant. [1] The presiding judge also found that her review exacerbated damages to the restaurant due to the fact that that her blog, Cultur’elle, had around 3,000 followers. [2]

In addition, the court ordered her to pay 1500 euros in damages and 1000 euros in legal costs to the owners of Il Giardino restaurant. [3]

In response to the judgement, the blogger said that the decision established a new crime for “being too highly ranked [on a search engine], or of having too great an influence.” [4] She added that “[w]hat is perverse, is that we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people.” [5]

[1] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.

 [2] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.
 [3] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.
 [4] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.
 [5] BBC News, French Blogger Fined Over Review’s Google Search Placing, (July 16, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28331598.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This decision is the first decision that has punished an individual with no commercial benefit from their blogging activities for a negative review. It is a decision that contracts expression as it purports to punish expression for being too prominent or influential, in particular if its negative effects. This can result in a major chilling effect on forms of expression that are necessarily subjective, such as reviews of art, literature, film, etc.

 

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Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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