Food Critic Punished for Critical Review

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

Taiwanese Blogger Gets Jail Time For Negative Restaurant Review
Huffington Post
June 23, 2011

A food blogger in Taiwan was sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years probation and fined 200,000 New Taiwan Dollars ($6928 as of 3 PM this afternoon) for writing a negative review of a restaurant in Taichung, Taiwan. The blogger, whose surname is Liu, called the food “too salty” and said that there were cockroaches in the kitchen. A regular customer read Liu’s blog, and told the restaurant’s owner about the review. The owner sued Liu for libel. The Taichung court that ultimately ruled on the case decided that Liu’s review was libelous because it was written after just one dinner, and so was not well-informed enough for such harsh judgment. The decision is final.

It’s not rare for restaurants to sue reviewers in America, but they almost never win. A 1985 ruling by the 2nd Circuit Federal Appeals Court in New York, in the case Mr. Chow of New York v. Ste. Jour Azur S.A., gave critics extremely wide berth for their restaurant reviews. The judge in the case explained that American readers understand that reviews represent the opinion of the writer, and so should not be taken factually. Subsequent lawsuits in America have almost never been decided in favor of restaurants””our critics are too influential for punishment!