18 July 2014

The internet is a life-changing tool and a driver of social interaction, education and communication. However, it is also very much a double-edged sword. It is so often a tool for positive change, yet it is often used as a weapon. I got thinking about this recently when I read that a French blogger had been fined £1,200 because her harsh review of a restaurant ranked so highly in Google search results. Its position, according to the restaurant, was unfairly damaging their business. The judge seemed to agree because, as well as the fine, he also ordered the title to be changed, knocking it out of the search engine spotlight.  So, was this a fair judgement, or an affront on freedom of speech?

pen_swordI think it’s a tricky one. The very nature of the internet means that content is constantly being generated so there will always be someone to take umbrage at something! The whole world would end up in court if everyone got sued for writing an opinion. Having said that, there does have be a means of protecting people from undue suffering as a result of malicious comments. Take sites like Trip Advisor and the negativity that they can create. It’s almost become the new vehicle for revenge! As the saying goes; the pen is mightier than the sword.

When you add to the mix the fact that some of the bad reviews are written by competitors then suddenly the wonderful thing about the internet, its ability to communicate ideas and information, becomes irrelevant. Ultimately, if what the blogger wrote about the restaurant was correct then fair enough. Personally, I was shocked to hear that she was fined so heavily for her review, but it does raise a few questions about the way we allow online content to shape our views. It’s easy to perceive things that are published online as fact without asking ourselves whether the person writing it had a biased opinion or an ulterior motive.

What do you think about this one? I empathise with both parties, but who would you side with?


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