Blogger fined for ranking too well in Google


Hey everyone, hope you’ve all had a great week!

I have something a little bit different for you today so I hope you don’t mind me going a little bit off topic but I just thought my fellow bloggers out there might find this interesting. I came across a story yesterday about a blogger who wrote a review of a French restaurant, a review which managed to land her with a hefty fine and a visit to a French court, why? Simply because her post was ranking too well in Google’s search engine results.

From what I can see this lady is a fashion and literacy blogger, so I’m not sure whether she had visited the restaurant with the intention of reviewing it or not. After experiencing poor service and a poor attitude from the restaurant’s owner however, she ended up posting quite a negative review of the restaurant on her blog detailing out the grievances of her visit. In what would initially appear to be a good result her review managed to land itself on the first page of Google (in 4th spot to be exact), a result that most bloggers would be pretty happy with. Sadly for this blogger it hasn’t turned out to be a good result at all and has actually landed her with weeks of stress as well as a £1,200/$2,000 fine because a judge in France ruled that her review had negatively impacted on the restaurant’s business. The Judge then ordered her to change the title of the post so that it wouldn’t appear so high up in Google’s search results.

Should you only be allowed to post positive reviews?

I’ve written a few review posts in the past but they have only tended to be reviews of products or services that I like, so far anyway. I also have to admit that the thought that I might land myself in a bit of trouble if I was to ever post a negative review of a company online has crossed my mind. If you were to find yourself in a position in life where you felt truly aggrieved about an experience you’d had with a company though, if you have made the effort to start a blog, should you then refrain from posting your thoughts on your own personal blog just because people out there might actually agree with you and start sharing it socially or worse yet, link to it?

Of course there is the other side of the coin where you may have one very influential blogger who has a bad experience with a company but where this is completely a one-off event and the company in question usually provides stellar service to their customers. In this case it may seem a little harsh if this one experience and negative review were to completely destroy the reputation of a company, but then I’d like to think that the readers of the blog would feel it only right to jump to that company’s defence in the comments if they felt that the review was overly harsh or incorrect.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the ruling it has still happened and the offending blog post has now been deleted, an outcome which is likely to anger many bloggers and perhaps even worry some others who have posted negative reviews in the past. One thing is for sure, I don’t think too many bloggers out there are going to be championing the French legal system anytime soon.

What do you think about the ruling?

14 Responses to Blogger fined for ranking too well in Google

  1. While harsh, it does impose some discipline on what bloggers can write. I remember when Michael Jackson passed away, I wrote an article defining possible scenarios including whether Live Aid would or would not refund tickets already purchased for the cancelled ‘This Is It’ concerts. We heard from Live Aid lawyers almost immediately, who demanded that the article be taken down since no final decision had been made on refunds at that point (and the article could accelerate the staggering number of customer inquiries and complaints). Lesson learned.

    • Adam Buller says:

      Hey Daniel,

      I can see where you’re coming from but I do also feel that a person has a right to express their thoughts. When there are websites dedicated to reviewing products or companies I do find this quite an odd decision but you’re right, it’s something we all need to take note of.

  2. I’m obviously not from France, so I have no idea what laws they have about freedom of speech like we have in the US. In the US, if someone ranked that high because of a negative review, they would (hopefully) be congratulated for their honest, and restaurant would try to improve. In the US, don’t we have entire website dedicated to bad reviews….and isn’t the internet international, in that it can show up in foreign countries such as France? Why doesn’t aren’t there lawsuits against the big companies and website that post negative things? I believe it’s a double standard, and the blogger is being targeted because she is a “small fish” and easy target.

    • Adam Buller says:

      It does seem a little crazy when as you say there are websites dedicated to this kind of thing, in the US and in other countries. I wonder if those larger sites are at all worried now that a kind of precedent has been set, at least in France anyway.

  3. A critical but honest review is always a good thing to help businesses improve. I do it all the time on Yelp so why not on a blog?

    People have a right to know if places are worth the money. The positive side of this is that when a place is amazing, people gush about it for free.

    Word of mouth shouldn’t be censored.

  4. J. Money says:

    daaaaamn that’s harsh indeed! I know some pf bloggers have been threatened for various things too, like Lazy Man and Money for bashing MLM companies, and also Mr. Money Mustache for something I can’t recall (I believe they’re both fighting it?), but boy… not a fun spot to be in regardless.

    • Adam Buller says:

      This is the first time I’ve heard of it J but it’s interesting to know that it has happened to others in our niche. Yep, not a great position to find yourself in.

  5. This is really interesting! I think bloggers have a lot of power/influence and this is crazy how it played out. I think that we should be able to share our honest opinions, but it is rough for the restaurant that is losing business. But maybe they could learn from it?

    • Adam Buller says:

      It really does show the power of a blog post doesn’t it Melanie. It also shows that as a business you never really know who your customer is, so good customer service at all times is paramount.

  6. With the information you’ve provided, I think the ruling is complete crap. If they could prove her account of the experience was incorrect then I can see the need for a fine and for taking the post down. But if all she’s doing is relaying her true and honest experience….well….the restaurant should be ready to handle that sort of situation if their staff isn’t up to par every time!

  7. That’s absurd! If the comment was based on a real experience in the reasturant, the writer had every right to put it up there. So long as nothing was made up, others deserve to know what happened.

  8. Erastus says:

    The judgement was too hard. I believe if you’re not happy with something or service then you have the right to express and challenge those responsible so they can improve

  9. That’s pathetic! I think she has the right to say or blog as long that it’s all fast and she has a basis for all the words that she had written.

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