A man has been jailed for writing fake travel reviews on TripAdvisor, in a landmark fraud ruling that should scare others from posting favourable or unfavourable critiques under false identities.
Travel Weekly reported that the man has been sentenced to nine months’ jail by the Criminal Court of Lecce in Italy.
PromoSalento – the company that sold the fake review packages to hospitality businesses throughout Italy – has been ordered to pay around 8000 Euros in costs and damages.
Under Italian criminal law, writing fake reviews under a false identity is now considered criminal conduct.
Writing fake reviews is already considered illegal in many jurisdictions, but this is the first legal case of its kind involving enforcement and criminal conviction.
TripAdvisor supported the prosecution and even shared evidence from its own fraud investigations.
TripAdvisor said it takes review fraud extremely seriously and has a dedicated team of investigators on the payroll searching for false reviews.
“We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet,” said Vice President and Associate General Counsel of TripAdvisor, Brad Young.
“Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.”
Review sites are seen as a major part of the global travel experience, and review companies, such as TripAdvisor, are working hard to restore faith in online review platforms.
“Online reviews play a major role in tourism and consumer purchasing decisions, but it’s important everyone plays by the rules,” said Pascal Lamy, Chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, UNWTO.
“Fake reviews clearly contravene the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, which we published last year to guide the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms.
“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.”
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