After a restaurant successfully sued a blogger over a critical review, is this a sign that influential blogs could soon be forced to censor their opnions?
Blogs- like social media- are a platform for anyone to express their views. Obviously there must be some limitations to this but if you feel strongly enough to criticise something then chances are it reflects a genuinely bad experience at the hands of a business of some sort. This week a blogger was successfully sued by a French restaurant who claimed their business had been adversely affected by a critical post whose title described the eaterie as ` the place to avoid ` after a poor experience there. A French judge ordered the blogger to alter the title of the post and pay damages to the restaurant. Could this spur other enterprises angered by influential blog criticisms to take similar action?
In the case of the French restaurant review, the main complaint seemed to be that its prominence in Google searches was damaging the business as the blog had 3,000 followers. What does not seem to have been addressed are issues raised in the review. Does the restaurant itself not accept anything is wrong with its operation? The court’s surprising ruling calls to mind the bullying pack mentality of fans of particular ventures who rise up against any criticism (“call yourself a fan”) failing to take the content of that criticism into account. This particular restaurant seems to think it is perfect and any business that takes such a narrow view is surely doomed to receive more bad reviews in future. Indeed the publicity surrounding the case could even backfire badly on them.
After the ruling the blogger said that "this decision creates a new crime of 'being too highly ranked or of having too great an influence'". Of course professional reviewers do this often; there are some wonderfully vicious reviews they have written about restaurants or films or events.
I have a feeling that a lot of enterprises would rather blogs were more like the sort of vlogs you get on You Tube, consisting mostly of either irreverent japery, montage tributes or fawning encounters with stars. Blogs are generally harder edged and far more opinionated providing an alternative to the barrage of publicity material that is pumped out by artists and businesses these days. Blogs can also actually help some smaller enterprises like an independent film or small café by spreading the word about something that would otherwise fall under the radar of larger publicity machines.
I appreciate the fine line that is being trod but anyone who puts stuff out there, who opens a restaurant or releases an album or makes a film must expect that some people will not like it and should be allowed to say why on any public forum. If not then that is a step towards censorship of free speech. Let’s hope this case is a one off.