Fraudsters writing fake Tripadvisor reviews could face jail

Owner of Italian business that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews jailed for nine months

Owner of Italian business that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews jailed for nine months

A company in Puglia was found to be supplying fake TripAdvisor reviews.

The man was also ordered to pay around €8,000 (£7,100) in costs and damages after the Criminal Court of Lecce ruled that writing fraudulent reviews under a false identity was "criminal conduct".

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.

TripAdvisor staff identified and blocked more than 1,000 attempts by Promo Salento to post reviews. TripAdvisor joined the legal proceedings as a civil claimant, and provided the prosecution with its own evidence.

The company wrote hundreds of reviews, but in 2015, some of the companies began sending the solicitation letters to TripAdvisor, which began an investigation.

TripAdvisor's Vice President and Associate General Counsel Brad Young praised the ruling, calling it a "landmark ruling for the Internet".

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What's the significance? Although paid review fraud has been considered illegal in many countries for some time, this is one of the first instances in it resulting in an actual 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". The e-mails said that his company would write positive reviews and help improve the property's ratings in exchange for a fee.

"Review fraud is something TripAdvisor takes extremely seriously, employing advanced tracking technology and a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site", the company said.

"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.

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

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