A food blogger in Taiwan was sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years probation and fined 200,000 New Taiwan Dollars 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.
After visiting a Taichung beef noodle restaurant in July 2008, where she had dried noodles and side dishes, Liu wrote that the restaurant served food that was too salty, the place was unsanitary because there were cockroaches and that the owner was a “bully” because he let customers park their cars haphazardly, leading to traffic jams.
The restaurant’s owner, surnamed Yang (楊), learned about Liu’s blog post from a regular customer, and filed charges against her, accusing her of defamation.
The Taichung District Court ruled that Liu’s criticism of the restaurant exceeded reasonable bounds and sentenced her to 30 days in detention, a ruling that Liu appealed.
The High Court found that Liu’s criticism about cockroaches in the restaurant to be a narration of facts, not intentional slander.
However, the judge also ruled that Liu should not have criticized all the restaurant’s food as too salty because she only had one dish on her single visit.
Health officials who inspected the restaurant did not find conditions to be as unsanitary as Liu had described, so the High Court also ruled that Liu must pay NT$200,000 to the owner for revenues lost as a result of her blog post.
The ruling is final.
Liu has apologized to the restaurant for the incident.
Yang said he filed the charges because Liu’s negative comments about his restaurant led many customers to call him to ask if her review was true.
He said he hoped the case would teach her a lesson.
Huang Cheng-lee (黃呈利), a lawyer in Taichung, said that bloggers who post food reviews should remember to be truthful in their commentary and supplement their comments with photographs to protect themselves.
He also said bloggers should be objective and fair in their writing.
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