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Food blogging : The new crime is – ‘ being too highly ranked [on a search engine]’

A food blogger has been fined after her searing review of a French restaurant ranked too highly in Google search results.

The article, called “the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino”, was written by Caroline Doudet following her trip to the restaurant in south western France last year. In it, she complained of poor service and a negative attitude from the owner.

According to court documents, the article ranked fourth in search results when the restaurant’s name was typed into Google, and the restaurant owner said that its high visibility was damaging business.

The judge at a court in Bordeaux ruled in his favour, ordering Doudet to pay €1,500 (£1,200) in damages and to amend the article’s title so that “the place to avoid” was less prominent. This, he said, would result in it appearing further down in search.

Doudet argued that it was the equivalent of making it illegal to rank highly in search engines. “This decision creates a new crime of ‘being too highly ranked [on a search engine]’, or of having too great an influence’,” she told the BBC.

“What is perverse is that we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people.”

Doudet runs a successful fashion and literature blog called “Cultur’elle”, whose following of around 3,000 people would increase the amount of harm done, according to the judge. The ruling was made under the French law which allows the use of an emergency order to force a person to cease any activity that is harming another party.

To be able to issue it, a judge simply has to identify a causal relationship between a wrong committed by the defendant and resulting suffering experienced by the appellant. Doudet has said that she is unlikely to appeal, if just to avoid “reliving the weeks of anguish”.

photo credit: webponce via photopin cc