Thursday, July 14, 2011

Know your international law, or face consequences you don't expect

Because the Internet traverses (almost) everywhere, we often make assumptions that everyone is just like us, and every culture is just like our culture.

But these assumptions can go awry. For example, Google+ has a feature called "Incoming." Most of us wouldn't give that feature a second thought. But what if you were a war veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? (This was mentioned in Google+, but I can no longer find the comment that mentioned it.)

But some assumptions have more serious consequences. What if you were to write the following in a restaurant review?

The woman, identified by her last name only, complained of cockroach infestation, parking chaos and salty food...

Now the restaurant owner obviously wasn't happy. One would expect that the restaurant owner would take the reviewer to civil court and slap her with a huge lawsuit. But things are apparently a little different in Taiwan:

The Taichung District Court originally concluded that Liu’s review “exceeded reasonable bounds,” and handed down the 30 day sentence.

Yes, a 30 day sentence. As in jail sentence.

It's unclear whether the reviewer served any time in jail, but she did have to pay a hefty fine. For one, a health inspector apparently didn't find any cockroaches. But there was another reason for the fine:

The court opined that characterizing the restaurant’s food as “salty” was unreasonable as Liu only sampled one dish...

Yes, that's right. A restaurant reviewer was fined for referring to a restaurant's food as salty.

I bet that a lot of restaurant owners are thinking about moving to Taiwan right now.

Oh, there's one more thing - the restaurant reviewer was a blogger.

For some people, that justifies the jail sentence, I guess...
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