Skip to comments.Blogger jailed over critical restaurant review
Posted on 06/23/2011 11:42:25 AM PDT by LibWhacker
OBJECTIVITY:The judge said the blogger should not have criticized the restaurants food as too salty in general, because she had eaten dried noodles and two side dishes
The Taichung branch of Taiwan High Court on Tuesday sentenced a blogger who wrote that a restaurants beef noodles were too salty to 30 days in detention and two years of probation and ordered her to pay NT$200,000 in compensation to the restaurant.
The blogger, surnamed Liu (劉), writes about a variety of topics including food, health, interior design and lifestyle topics and has received more than 60,000 hits on her Web site.
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 restaurants owner, surnamed Yang (楊), learned about Lius blog post from a regular customer, and filed charges against her, accusing her of defamation.
The Taichung District Court ruled that Lius 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 Lius 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 restaurants 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 Lius 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.
LOL! "Yes, we have a cockroach problem, but posting our food is too salty - YOU WILL PAY FOR THAT!"
Jeeze. This sounds like the OTHER China. :/
Geez. I hope this doesn’t happen in this country. Have you ever seen reviews on sites such as Yelp??? Are we going to say that someone is legally liable for their opinion that they got bad service at some business????
Instead, the Court finds that here sample size was too small to justify her findings.. =/
The time is NOW to protect your 1st Amendment rights by exercising those protected under the 2nd Amendment.
At last! Somebody taking a realistic approach to dealing with irresponsible blogging!
I always take reviews from such sites with a grain of salt.
I’ve been trying for a bit to find this bloggers website - give a hit or two for revenue....not finding it....
How you like THEM apples, blogger??!!
(Obscure Houston talk radio reference)
Here in the US, she would have just called 911 to report the salty noodles.
You would support a blogger over a business owner?
And because he sues his customers who complain about the food.
I have no idea whether some, or none or all of what this blogger said is ‘true’, but he obviously ‘thought’ or ‘felt’ it was true. This blogger was obviously surprised that a ‘Federal Case’ was made out of what he probably thought was an attempt to provide a Consumer’s Guide to eating out. Looks like the authorities are sending a message to OTHER bloggers though, saying that “Look what we can do to a piddling little restaurant review! You’d better be careful!”, the implication being a big chill is being put on internet expression. If the restaurant owner’s business got adversely affected,you can see why he justifiably or not, complained. It would make better sense for an Indie Blogger only to do reviews of restaurants THEY LIKE. Which they probably will, in Taipei, from now on.
If the government/corporate complex gets its way.
We exist to create a market for their products. If we don't like their products, we must not be allowed to harm their business.
Well, I guess sending a dish back to the kitchen in that restaurant is just out.
And if a bunch of bloggers in your town get mad at you and
write about how you are a syphilitic pedophile who eats puppies?
You support that?
True or not, it's free speech for bloggers, right?
Unsupervised, irresponsible, free-wheeling, no training-or-investment bloggers.
Let's not hold any of the "New Media" accountable.
Members of the Taiwan Restaurant Critics Association after they paid an ill-advised visit to T.G.I. Friday's in Taipei.
If I ran a business in a free nation and someone wrote about it things I didn't like and didn't think were true - I would have options to show that they were wrong and I was correct.
Having them jailed is not one of those options, in a free society.
Maybe you don't like freedom of speech. Maybe your crusade against bloggers who excerpt their own lame posts (which I support BTW) has warped your perspective.
Stupid punishment but i sure would be pissed if i was losing business due to some dumb-assed “blogger”.
HA! I saw that picture too - lol
Hopefully her blog address will be known - it should go viral so she can have some extra money when she gets out of jail.
“Take away the right to say “F*ck” and you take away the right to say “F*ck the government!”.” Lenny Bruce
“i sure would be pissed if i was losing business due to some dumb-assed blogger.”
I don’t see it as much different from the anonymous people posting customer reviews on various websites. Or, in the pre-internet era, getting a bad newspaper review or just old-fashioned bad word-of-mouth. I think a better solution is improving customer service rather than vilifying the customers for having an opinion.
This case happened in Taiwan, with a Chinese legal tradition that even before Communism was not exactly known for protecting individual rights. It would not and could not have happened in America — at least not yet.
We don't have the details of the case, and they're probably written in Chinese so I don't think we can say very much about who is right and wrong on the facts of the case without being able to access primary source documents. My antenna are raised by the Freepers who can't find this blogger’s website, although the Taipei Times is a legitimate newspaper and I'm guessing this incident happened more or less the way it got reported.
What counts is that under American libel law, it would have been virtually impossible for a restaurant owner to win a libel case if the facts are the way this article describes them, let alone throw a blogger in jail.
And that's the way it **SHOULD** be. It is essential to freedom that people have the right to spout wrong, harmful, and even idiotic opinions about other people, knowing that the people being attacked have every right to respond.
Almost three hundred years ago, the Zenger case in colonial New York established the principle that truth is an absolute defense against libel, later enshrined in our First Amendment. Subsequent case law, including the “Cherry Sisters” case a century ago involving a vicious review of a vaudeville act, established the principle that because people's opinions can't be proved true or false, opinion cannot be prosecuted as libel. My opinion of food being “too salty” may be different from yours, but you can't sue me for a statement of opinion that can't be proved factually wrong.
Jailing people on charges of damaging other people's reputations is something that stopped in America with the acquittal of John Peter Zenger in 1734, a key case that gave birth decades later not only to our First Amendment but also to our Constitutional guarantees against excessive bail being imposed. The details are complicated, but basically jury nullification was used to gut legal efforts by the New York colonial governor to stifle public criticism of his actions; the jury refused to enforce existing laws and that precedent made it clear that the colonists wouldn't tolerate British efforts to use the courts to stifle critics.
Here's a short summary of the case:
Bloody Sam Roberts alludes to something important when he says that “The time is NOW to protect your 1st Amendment rights by exercising those protected under the 2nd Amendment.”
Just like the right to bear arms, the right to publish is an individual right, not a “collective right.” There are reasons the United States does not issue licenses to publish a newspaper or to work as reporters.
That has direct and important implications in dealing with the “blogosphere.”
Legally speaking, the professional news media has virtually the same legal rights and privileges as individual people who want to attend a government meeting, access a government document, and write something about what they found out — and they are also subject to virtually the same legal penalties for libel.
The Federal Communications Commission **DOES** license TV and radio stations because the alternative is stations broadcasting over each other’s frequencies. That created a dangerous power — anyone remember the “Fairness Doctrine” that throttled conservatives for generations? Rush Limbaugh never could gave gotten started if the federal government hadn't changed its policies on this issue.
Conservatives need to remember that freedom of speech and of the press are individual rights that anyone can exercise.
Now unofficially, we all know things work a little differently in the real world when government officials have discretion instead of being governed by state or federal laws such as open meetings acts, open records acts, Sunshine Laws, FOIA, or equivalents. When I show up on a crime scene or at a fire or a vehicle crash with my yellow reflective vest with the word “media” on the front and back, the local police officers know who I am, and not only will they not run me off, they'll probably take me inside the “crime scene” tape to talk to the incident commander. The police won't do that for a gawker with a camera, but barring a few extreme cases that generally involve national security or imminent danger, they **CANNOT** legally tell gawkers to stop taking photographs on a public street as long as they're standing outside the “crime scene” tape and not creating an impediment to traffic. (Of course, they can cordon off such a wide area with crime scene tape that it takes a telephoto lens to see anything, and that's usually legit.)
Supremedoctrine pointed this out: “Looks like the authorities are sending a message to OTHER bloggers though, saying that Look what we can do to a piddling little restaurant review! Youd better be careful!, the implication being a big chill is being put on internet expression. If the restaurant owners business got adversely affected,you can see why he justifiably or not, complained. It would make better sense for an Indie Blogger only to do reviews of restaurants THEY LIKE. Which they probably will, in Taipei, from now on.”
He's quite likely correct; this likely **WILL** have a chilling effect on free speech. In the Chinese legal system that may be an acceptable way to send a message to get people to govern their own actions by self-control. It most emphatically is not acceptable in the United States.
Now back to the key issue of whether this blogger should have been punished: Was this libelous? Not under American law, but maybe so under Chinese law.
Over here, bloggers need to understand that if you're going to exercise your right to publish, you also have the legal responsibilities that go with those rights. Libel is a very serious matter. This restaurant review probably doesn't meet that standard, but some stuff on the internet **IS** libelous, and publishing false and defamatory information about people gets you into the same hot water whether you're publishing via electrons or newsprint.
The key is whether your statement was false. If it's not false, you're free and clear. If it is false... watch out.
I stopped right here. Taiwan is not China. It's a democracy and its economy is capitalist. While their justice system may not be as lenient as ours, they are nowhere close to China as far as human rights abuses.
Of course Shibumi's comment was tongue-in-cheek, but his (and my) distrust of the majority of bloggers is well-placed. The majority of bloggers are self-serving hacks more interested in feeding their egos and bank accounts than making sure their "writing" is factual.
Actually, the governments in both Taipei and Beijing agree that Taiwan is part of China; the dispute is which government is legitimate.
Even if that weren't true and the People's Republic finally agreed to recognize Taiwan as an independent country, my point was that Taiwan operates out of the Chinese legal tradition which emphasizes the good of the collective group rather than the rights of the individual. I could say similar things about a number of other Asian countries which have a historic Confucian influence.
While Taiwan is a lot better than mainland China in a very long list of ways, and while dissent may be tolerated today in Taiwan, that's not the same as saying people have rights which are endowed by the Creator rather than being privileges granted by the government. There are important differences between Asia and the West in underlying views of the role of government and the rights of people as free citizens.
Western legal concepts with their emphasis on individual rights really are unusual in world history, and while they date back to Greco-Roman concepts, I'd argue that the emphasis on the individual is due in significant measure to a Judeo-Christian influence, and that within the Western legal tradition, the Anglo-American legal system is the freest that the world has ever yet produced.
We're doing a good job of wrecking it, unfortunately, by confusing liberty with license. That causes Asians who value order to think America is an example of what happens when people are “too free,” rather than understanding that our problems are mostly caused by Americans who have lost sight of our own history and values.
Was it terribly painful when they surgically removed your sense of humor? Total funnybonectomy?
(Lighten up, Francis.)
That is only true up until the mid 1980s when the Democratic Progressive Party, the DPP, took control of the Taiwanese government. The DPP recognizes "one China" as PROC without Taiwan, hence all the bitterness directed at Taiwan from Beijing. The DPP-led government does not want reunification, it wants independence. Taiwan is not likely to push the independence issue anytime soon as it would necessarily lead to armed conflict with communist China and with the couple of hundred thousand holdover commie sympathizers who live in Taiwan.
I stopped right there....well, I had to - that was the end of the post - lol
But anyways....the majority of "journalists" I label the same too, gone are the days of objective reporting....I more "trust" a blogger for information nowadays than a reporter (and I trust no one these days for th most part)....as in this case, I'd trust the blogger expressing her opinion that something tasted too salty for her palate than a journalist getting paid not to upset paying advertisers - as in this restaurateur
Trust nobody and you'll never be disappointed.
As with many matters, oversimplification creates problems and I could have done a lot better job in talking about the status of Taiwan. I'll stand by my point on the uniqueness of the Western emphasis on individual rights as contrasted with the Chinese legal tradition, which Taiwan shares despite a lot of influences from the United States, but details of the status of Taiwan vis-a-vis Beijing were not what I intended to emphasize.
That doesn't mean I'm not aware of the issue. I spent a summer attending English-language services at a Chinese-speaking church a few years after the Tiananmen Square massacre; the church was filled with people who had managed to flee China after that incident, and whose pastor had fled mainland China many decades earlier — but it wasn't my main point. Also, although I do monitor news about Asian political issues that could affect the United States and its military, my wife is Korean, not Chinese, so I have more reason to follow Korean politics than Chinese politics.
I bestoweth upon the thee, thy new FReeper moniker of "Black Knight." Verily, thy tenacity eliciteth awe.
Graphic analogy ping for Shibumi.
I have a feeling I shouldn't take that as a compliment, but it is funny!
There's a huge difference between Western concepts of individual rights and the way most of the rest of the world operates. I happen to think the Western legal tradition is a very important thing to value, and stories like this one from Taiwan are a good reminder of why we need to be grateful to live in the United States where we still have a Constitution, and despite all of our problems, generally we can say and do what we please — including publicly criticizing people we don't like even if they're in business or government.
Of course, there are a lot worse places than Asia to see their “justice” in action — the Muslim world, for example, with horrific abuse of women and execution of people for conversion to other religions.
But that doesn't mean everything is great in Asia.
Asian countries like Singapore may be orderly and capitalist and relatively mild in their governmental rule, but they do not have a strong history of freedom in the Western sense of the word. Obviously I'd rather see Beijing acting more like Singapore than like Moscow or Pyongyang, but anytime a government views order as more important than freedom or views such things as free speech as privileges rather than as rights, bad things can easily happen even if they're not happening today.
Nowhere have I supported the harsh punishment meted out to the restaurant critic, the subject of this thread. I merely pointed out the fact that Taiwan's justice system is much better than that in communist China.
50mm wrote: “I merely pointed out the fact that Taiwan’s justice system is much better than that in communist China.”
On that point we fully agree.
Even if it blogs about giant squids eating Japan?
Nobody is checking, even for spelling.. so why the trust?
I more "trust" a blogger for information nowadays than a reporter (and I trust no one these days for the most part)
We're all somewhat like mini-bloggers here on this site, relaying information and thoughts to each other - I trust more people here than the NYT at this point - spelling errors and all...
So, where's this blog about a giant squid eating Japan? Did they kill it? I've got a wicked fried squid recipe.....I wonder if fried giant squid is tough?....I won't be asking the Taiwan blogger from the start of this thread to investigate...I think she's tied up with other things.
The vast majority of us are not trying to drive traffic offsite to get hits and advertising revenue.
You know what I mean and I know what you mean (I don’t like money excerpters here either - I’ve rattled off on those blog pimp threads too)
A poor blogger getting thrown in jail for a seemingly honest review, “I thought the meal was salty” is the thread at hand and somehow it gets morphed into “I’m glad she got jail time - I hate bloggers, they have no integrity” - and all “real” reporters have integrity? Just because they work for a ‘legit’ agency?
If a blogger posts their whole article I’m cool with their post, if they excerpt- I’m not too....but that has nothing to do with who I choose to read and believe if something is salty or not....
Apples and Oranges are getting mixed up here, and there’s no room for these grapes....
(fyi - I don’t blog - I post -and if I did blog I wouldn’t excerpt it here:>)
Contrast that against all the bloggers that make money ripping off videos and content.
There SHOULD be consequences.
The majority of bloggers are scum.
No training, no accountability, no investment, no ability to be hired for their "skill".
I just don't think much of 'em, it's true.
If the character Cliff Klaven from Cheers were to pick a profession other than mail carrier/know-it-all, it would be blogger. No doubt about it.
I don't either - the one's who excerpt here drive me batty. Some are interesting though...and I only find that out if they don't excerpt...because if they excerpt they are filthy blog pimps - lol- If they don't excerpt I treat it as a vanity post...heck, most NYTime articles are vanity posts :>)
All that because of an obvious joke?
This makes me seriously doubt your rationality and certainly your objectivity.
Your post reminds me of the FReepers who freaked out during the World Cup when some of us made it clear what we thought about a bunch of drunks blowing toy horns and watching kickball. It actually seemed to cause physical pain when it was pointed out that they looked like a bunch of idiots watching a children’s game. They actually tried to explain to us why we should like something that we will never like. Absolutely ridiculous.
Many of us don’t have a higher opinion of bloggers than we do of kickball fans. Especially when they get all long winded trying to explain that they are relevant.
There was an article in a large South Korean newspaper recently about a college down in Jeju Island that was so strapped for cash that over 50% of their students were foreign language students from China who couldn't speak a lick of Korean. They also had multiple witnesses tell them the financial situation was so bad at the college that they did not even have $ to buy toilet paper for the public restrooms and sent out memos to students specifically telling them they were on the own for TP yet the paper was not allowed to reveal the name of the college for fear of a libel suit.
If you were a South Korean parent with college age kids, wouldn't you want to know the name of that school so you could cross it off your list of schools for your son or daughter? But becasue of the libel laws in countries like Taiwan and South Korea, this school is allowed to lie blatantly about the quality of their campus life but any journalist or blogger who would dare to call them out could get sued for thousands of dollars for libel.
So those of you defending this business owner in anyway shape or form are knee-jerk corporationists. You think that only businesses have a right to free speech?! I think those of you who are cheering on this restaurant owner for getting this blogger thrown in jail need to brush up on their American History and Thank GOD that have the freedom to talk about salty noodles or a college that is so financially incompetant they don't supply TP in their restrooms without having to worry about being sued for thousands of dollars or thrown in jail over it.
Having said that, there are simple steps that any blogger or FReeper can do to protect themselves. How to avoid jail time over a restaurant review
"..All food bloggers even ones in the U.S., where legal thresholds for libel and product disparagement are much higher are one caustic comment away from a lawsuit. Without the deep pockets of a large newspaper or magazine paying the free-speech attorney fees, a blogger can face bankruptcy from even the most frivolous slander or libel suit."
"The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution offers far more protection than the free speech codes of other countries, including South Korea. However, there still are lessons for American food bloggers to help avoid trouble...."