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Thread: French court fines blogger for ranking high in Google

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    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    French court fines blogger for ranking high in Google

    A French court has fined a blogger because her negative review of a restaurant was too prominent in Google's search results. The review, which was entitlted "The place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino", was ranking fourth in the search results. The court said that the high ranking was hurting the restaurant's business.

    The BBC reported the story here.

    No doubt we'll all have our opinions about the validity of this judgment and its possible consequences for negative reviews. Personally, I don't think we should read too much into it. The judgment was intended to be an "emergency measure", which in French law is a bit like an injunction or an interdict. It forces someone to stop doing something that might hurt someone else. It would normally be followed by a full hearing, when the issue would be more carefully considered (although in this case the blogger chose not to go to a full hearing). Importantly, it does not set a precedent.

    Nevertheless, it seems bizarre that the reviewer should be punished, not for writing a negative review, but for the fact that the review scored highly in Google. As others have noted, it shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the issues on the part of the judge.

    What do you think?

    Mike

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    Top Contributor crabfoot is a Premium Member
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    I have noticed in the past that using "scam" or "warning" coupled with a keyword for a product attracts undeserved attention to some sites, particularly when the "warning" is that other sites charge more for the product, or the answer to "is it a scam?" turns out to be "no". Many people can't resist on clicking on any negative search comment in the results, and the proportion of people that do click is higher than the proportion that are attracted to phrases like "massive sale" and "50% off".

    Whereas affiliate marketers have been using the technique for years, this is a case of someone discovering independently that negative words / phrases rank highly with Gargyl.

    I think it is a very French decision - but then again, the judge could hardly order the complainant to hire a PR agent to swamp the web with positive reviews using similar titles to the negative one.

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    "Ms Doudet added that, because the decision was taken at an emergency hearing, she did not have time to find legal representation, so had represented herself in court."

    I would hesitate to put much weight on a lower court decision where there was no lawyer to point out the legal issues to the judge. Although a judge should know the basics of the law, it is really up to the parties in a case to present the legal arguments in their favor. Perhaps Ms Doudet did that, but my assumption was that if she did not have time to find legal representation, she did also not have time to properly prepare the legal arguments to support her position.

    It is an interesting decision, but I don't think it will establish a trend, even in France.

  5. #4
    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by David S View Post
    I would hesitate to put much weight on a lower court decision where there was no lawyer to point out the legal issues to the judge.
    Yes, that's the point I was making when I said that this type of decision doesn't set a precedent in the French system. The story isn't really about negative reviews or being "too prominent" in Google. It's about the consequences of an "emergency" court hearing, with at least one of the parties not having proper legal representation.

    Mike

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    This is one area where the US is clearly more advanced than Europe. We even have a term for this type of lawsuit, it's a SLAPP. Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Wiki link. More than half of our states have enacted laws protecting against this type of abuse of the court system, including most of the important states.

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    Chabrenas (20 July 2014), Clinton (21 July 2014), David S (19 July 2014), Kay (20 July 2014), Mikl (20 July 2014)

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    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by petertdavis View Post
    More than half of our states have enacted laws protecting against this type of abuse of the court system, including most of the important states.
    Thanks for drawing this our attention. The Wikipedia article you referenced makes interesting reading.

    We need to keep in mind that there are two sides to these cases. Clearly, there are people who will use the threat of legal action to frighten or intimidate their rivals and critics, and it's right that this should be stopped. But there are also genuine cases where someone is causing you real harm, and you need to take emergency action to deal with it.

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikl View Post
    Thanks for drawing this our attention. The Wikipedia article you referenced makes interesting reading.

    We need to keep in mind that there are two sides to these cases. Clearly, there are people who will use the threat of legal action to frighten or intimidate their rivals and critics, and it's right that this should be stopped. But there are also genuine cases where someone is causing you real harm, and you need to take emergency action to deal with it.

    Mike

    The problem with what you're saying is that someone can post a legitimate review of a business like a restaurant, and that review may cause real harm to the business. The court systems should not be used by foul businesses to intimidate people who write legitimate reviews, but obviously the have been and continue to be abused in this manner. If a restaurant has an unhappy customer who posted a review about their experience, the reaction of the restaurant should not be to sue the person, their efforts should be focused on fixing the problems that the customer pointed out.

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    Moderator Kay is a Premium Member
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    Well said, Peter. During the last ten years, I spent a lot of my time writing travel reviews (for my own sites and for other people - one resort even offered me a job as their PR writer!). Most of the places I went to were wonderful. However, inevitably there were some disappointments - and I blogged about them on my foodie blog. In many cases where I wrote a negative review about the food or restaurant, we were invited back to try again to see if I could write a better review for them. Invariably they did get a better review after the second meal because they fixed the problem I had with the first. Plus I was able to say that they're very receptive to customers and their criticisms. So I agree, if a customer has a complaint, then fix the problem. Don't sue the customer for honestly describing their experience.

    The problem is that shill reviews are rife on places like Trip Advisor. I spoke to many restaurant owners about this, including one who had been knocked off his long-held #1 slot by a dreadful review which turned out to have been commissioned by a competitor. He had proof that this was the case. What remedy did he have? Even if he'd sued the culprit, the damage had already been done.

    But this thread is about suing someone because of their high ranking in keywords. Something similar happened to me but that's another story... perhaps I'll start a new thread.

    Edit:

    The new thread is here: http://experienced-people.net/forums...s-food-blogger
    Last edited by Kay; 23 July 2014 at 1:39 am. Reason: additional info
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  13. #9
    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by petertdavis View Post
    The problem with what you're saying is that someone can post a legitimate review of a business like a restaurant, and that review may cause real harm to the business. The court systems should not be used by foul businesses to intimidate people who write legitimate reviews, but obviously the have been and continue to be abused in this manner. If a restaurant has an unhappy customer who posted a review about their experience, the reaction of the restaurant should not be to sue the person, their efforts should be focused on fixing the problems that the customer pointed out.
    I'm not saying anything of the sort. All I said was that there are two sides to the story, and the courts need to strike a balance.

    Mike

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