Italian man gets prison for writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor

Reuters

Reuters

An Italian court handed down a nine-month prison sentence to a person who wrote fake hotel reviews on TripAdvisor in exchange for money from hotels aiming to promote their profile on the giant reviews platform, skift.com reports.

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". TripAdvisor tracked the company down and issued a warning, but it didn't halt its practices; ultimately, the Italian Postal and Communications Police started its own probe and TripAdvisor joined the prosecution as a civil claimant, sharing the evidence it had gathered.

And the online review site says it is working with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority as well as the US Federal Trade Commission to share information and support its efforts to tackle online fake reviews.

TripAdvisor also said it takes review fraud "extremely seriously" and uses advanced tracking technology, as well as a team of investigators, to catch paid review companies and prevent them from using the site.

TripAdvisor today hailed the decision as a "landmark ruling" and says it is keen to work with other worldwide watchdogs such as the UK Competitions and Markets Authority to tackle the issue.

'Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result'. "However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction". The shift in consumer behaviour has resulted in advice from organisations such as the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, which published guidelines on the responsible use and misuse of ratings and review on digital platforms past year.

"We know that industry collaboration has an important role to play in tackling review fraud", Young stressed.

The defendant, who is the owner of marketing agency PromoSalento, was also ordered to pay €8000 ($12,975) in what the Italian judicial system hopes will serve as a precedent.

Tripadvisor now have more than 661 million reviews on their website, and face constant pressure from consumer groups, including the Italian Competition Authority, to prevent and remove fake reviews.

TripAdvisor has more than 661 million reviews and opinions covering the world's largest selection of travel listings, including around 7.7 million accommodations, airlines, experiences, and restaurants.

Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and commerce giants like Amazon, have gone on the offensive against fraudulent paid online reviews, saying they mislead consumers and undermine buyer confidence in retailers.

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