Penning fake TripAdvisor reviews could now result in JAIL

15 September, 2018, 08:19 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Owner of Italian business that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews jailed for nine months

A man who allegedly wrote fake reviews for Italian restaurants and hotels on TripAdvisor has been jailed for nine months, the company said.

TripAdvisor says it first heard of PromoSalento in 2015 when several Italian businesses forwarded emails from the company offering to boost their profile online.

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

A pivotal legal ruling in Italy saw a persistent online review fraudster sentenced to jail, prompting reviews site TripAdvisor to emphasise its stance against paid reviews companies. "However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction".

A subsequent investigation revealed "more than 1,000 attempts" to submit reviews for hundreds of different properties.

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'Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result'.

"Online reviews play a major role in tourism and consumer purchasing decisions, but it's important everyone plays by the rules", said UNWTO World Committee on Tourism Ethics chairman, Pascal Lamy.

It also penalized businesses that had paid PromoSalento for phony, glowing reviews. 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 previous year.

"The recommendations were developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube and Yelp and we know that industry collaboration has an important role to play in tackling review fraud". While posting fake reviews is not new, the punishment, in this case, is exceptional. All reports made to our Content Integrity team will be investigated and any information, no matter how minor, can help. TripAdvisor has millions of reviews for famous locations and businesses around the world.

TripAdvisor is the world's biggest travel website with more than 600 million reviews covering accommodation, airlines, museums and restaurants.

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