Man jailed in Italy for writing fake TripAdvisor review: company

Reuters

Reuters

TripAdvisor was first made aware of the owner's business, PromoSalento, in 2015 after several hospitality businesses forwarded his e-mails soliciting his services to the travel website. The judge found that writing fake reviews under a false identity was a crime under Italian law.

Hospitality businesses in the US are more likely to sue people who post slanderous comments on sites like TripAdvisor, while others have been forced to pay massive fines for invalidating negative reviews.

A man in Italy has been jailed for nine months over fake reviews on TripAdvisor, which the company has hailed as a "landmark ruling for the internet".

The Criminal Court of Lecce, which handed down the sentence, also ordered the business owner to pay a fine of 8,000 euros (approximately $9,200 USD) to cover the damages.

And TripAdvisor says the case could now see people writing fake reviews in other countries face similar legal action.

"However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction".

'We invest a lot in fraud prevention and we're successful at tackling it - since 2015, we've put a stop to the activity of more than 60 different paid review companies worldwide. "However, we can only do so much alone".

Hotels that had paid for fake reviews were penalised by being demoted in the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking.

"Online reviews play a major role in tourism and consumer purchasing decisions, but it's important everyone plays by the rules", said Pascal Lamy, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics Chairman at the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Some reviews were posted and later deleted for hundreds of properties.

The proactive focus on fraudulent reviews was laudable, Noonan said, and companies were increasingly deploying algorithms and fraud investigators to catch perpetrators. The site is also working with enforcement authorities including the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the US Federal Trade Commission, which could mean changes to sentencing around review fraud.

"Fake reviews clearly contravene the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, which we published past year to guide the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms".

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