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TripAdvisor lauds Italian ruling to jail online review fraudsters

TripAdvisor lauds Italian ruling to jail online review fraudsters

The judge found that writing fake reviews under a false identity was a crime under Italian law.

TripAdvisor began its own investigation in 2015 when numerous business owners across Italy provided evidence of letters they had received from PromoSalento offering to write fake reviews for a fee, in order to boost the companies' profiles on the site. 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.

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".

Brad Young, TripAdvisor's vice-president and associate general counsel, said the court's decision was a pivotal ruling for the internet.

Many jurisdictions have cracked down on companies or individuals who deliberately mislead customers but this is the first time paid-review fraud resulted in a jail sentence. "However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction".




The site then blocked or removed over 1,000 attempts by the fraudster to submit reviews on hundreds of different properties.

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

The company past year published the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, with recommendations developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube and Yelp.

"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". All reports made to our Content Integrity team will be investigated and any information, no matter how minor, can help. New articles will be added regularly addressing popular topics such as how TripAdvisor moderates reviews, or determines whether a review is biased.

TripAdvisor is the world's biggest travel website with more than 600 million reviews covering accommodation, airlines, museums and restaurants. TripAdvisor also compares prices from more than 200 hotel booking sites so travelers can find the lowest price on the hotel that's right for them. More should be done to make organisations that pay for fraudulent reviews accountable under the law.


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