Economy

Italian man gets prison for writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor

Italian man gets prison for writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor, which has been fighting fake reviews for years, learned of PromoSalento after hotels let the tourism site know the company had approached them offering to sell them reviews. In Italy, it is illegal to use a false identity to write fake reviews. The man was also ordered to pay about $9300 in costs and damages.

"We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet", TripAdvisor said to Reuters.

"The police investigation into Promo Salento delivered enough evidence of criminal conduct to send the case to court", the U.S. company said in a statement.

"Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result", says Brad Young, VP, associate general counsel at TripAdvisor.

Which? Travel raised concerns about fake reviews on Tripadvisor back in 2015 when it managed to submit three hoax listings to the site and write 54 fake reviews about them.

Despite the reviewer's attempt avoid detection by using a string of different usernames and email addresses, investigators were able to link PromoSalento to thousands of attempted reviews of hundreds of businesses.

More news: Australian PM Scott Morrison apologises for freakish social media video

This is the first time a paid-review fraud has resulted in a jail sentence, although in many jurisdictions deliberately misleading consumers through unfair or misleading marketing can lead to fines or the companies being shut down.

TripAdvisor collaborated in the case by sharing research from its own investigations into fraudulent reviews.

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 Mr Pascal Lamy, Chairman for the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, UNWTO. Some reviews were posted and later deleted for hundreds of properties.

"TripAdvisor welcomes the opportunity to work with enforcement authorities, including the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the US Federal Trade Commission, to share information and support their efforts to tackle online fake reviews", the statement read.


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