Dolce & Gabbana Sues Blogger: Freedom of Expression or Reputational Damage?
Still free speech or character assassination? This is a question that comes up more often nowadays, when many people post their unfiltered opinions on the internet every day. What are bloggers, Instagrammers or YouTubers allowed to say or spread about others without fear of consequences? At least nothing that leads to a loss of sales, Dolce & Gabbana thinks, and is suing two bloggers for more than 500 million euros in damages...
Accusations of Racism, Shitstorm and Boycott
The dispute began back in 2018. At the time, Dolce & Gabbana released some promotional videos for the Asian market before a planned fashion show in Shanghai. Among other things, the advertising showed a Chinese model trying to eat spaghetti with chopsticks. The shitstorm wasn’t long in coming – and was so big that not only the videos were deleted, but the fashion show was also cancelled.
But that wasn’t the end of it for Dolce & Gabbana. The bloggers Tony Liu and Lindsay Schuyler, who run the “Diet Prada” blog dedicated to topics such as racism and plagiarism in fashion, published comments by designer Stefano Gabbana on their Instagram channel shortly afterwards. In them, he made racist comments about Asians and described China as a “shitty country.” The statements came from the designer’s private Instagram messages, which were leaked to the bloggers.
Gabbana initially claimed his Instagram account had been hacked, then afterwards, the designers apologised in a video. After word got out about the promotional video and the statements, many Asian customers boycotted Dolce & Gabbana, and sales in Asian plummeted.
Dolce & Gabbana Demands over 500 Million Euros
As has only now become known, the fashion company then sued the two bloggers in a Milan civil court for over 500 million euros in damages in 2019. The company spent 450 million on improving their brand image, and 89,6 million was lost in sales in Asia. The two defendants have now made the lawsuit public on Instagram and are asking for donations for the legal proceedings.
According to them, the whole thing is just an attempt by the fashion company to silence them and other bloggers. Dolce & Gabbana’s behaviour is actually a bit strange. Because the company has been trying to polish its reputation publicly since the original incidents. For example, it donated to Covid-19 research and put a lot of money into a new communication strategy. This secret lawsuit against the bloggers doesn’t quite fit the picture...
Multi-million Euro Lawsuit as Revenge?
There are a lot of question marks behind the lawsuit itself, which are likely to be difficult to clarify: Did Stefano Gabbana really make the statements? How will Dolce & Gabbana prove that the sales slump is related to the posting on Instagram? Were the bloggers undertaking character assassination or just reporting facts? Since Dolce & Gabbana should also be aware that it cannot easily sue bloggers for millions of dollars, the proceedings could in fact be nothing more than an attempt at intimidation. Which in turn will not help to improve the image of the fashion company.
Opinion, Fact or Defamation?
But what about statements in social media or blogs? Which fall under free speech and which fall under defamation? This question isn’t easy to answer. Many different terms and definitions play a role here. For example, the question of whether the statement is a statement of fact.
What is an expression of opinion?
An opinion is a subjective statement and cannot be verified as true or false.
What is a statement of fact?
A statement of fact, in contrast to an expression of opinion, is a statement that can be objectively clarified and proven. Whether a statement of fact is protected by freedom of expression depends on its truthfulness.
What is defamation?
Defamation is the assertion of an untrue fact against one’s better judgment in order to slander, belittle in public opinion, or jeopardise the credit of another.
If personal rights are violated, the person concerned may have certain claims, including:
- Cease and desist
- Compensation for damages
- Monetary compensation
Blogging can be a dream job but as the example with Dolce & Gabbana shows, there are also risks. If you want to learn more about what you should look out for as a blogger and what the risks are, you should read this article: Blogger: Your Risks and How to Protect Yourself Properly
It remains to be seen whether the Dolce & Gabbana case will even be decided before the Milan court, as the bloggers’ defence lawyers pointed out that Italy was not the right place for the lawsuit, since the blog operated in the USA and the alleged damage occurred in Asia...
Professional Indemnity: Comprehensive Protection for Bloggers
Whether you’re a blogger, freelance journalist, YouTuber or influencer: With Professional Indemnity Insurance through exali, you’re fully protected. Violations of rights (e.g. violations of personal rights or copyright violations), fines and the resulting claims for damages are comprehensively insured. The insurer first checks claims for you, fends off unjustified claims at its own expense and pays justified claims for damages.
If the allegations from the damage event result in criminal proceedings, the insurer will also bear the court attendance expenses (lawyer’s costs). You can easily take out Professional Indemnity Insurance online and put together your own insurance coverage. If you have any questions, please contact our insurance experts at any time, who will be happy to advise you personally.
Calculate your premium now:
Who am I?
After a traineeship and a few years in corporate communications, I now work at exali as editor-in-chief of the online editorial department and am responsible for all content.
What do I enjoy?
Summer, travel, good food and football.
What do I dislike?
Travel by train, Brussels sprouts and slime.