Monday, 22 October, 2018

Fraudsters writing fake Tripadvisor reviews could face jail

The'most excellent countries in the world for customer service according to TripAdvisor Owner of Italian business that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews jailed for nine months
Ginger Lawrence | 15 September, 2018, 08:21

The criminal court of Lecce, Puglia, ruled that writing fake reviews using a false identity is criminal conduct under the Italian criminal law.

A criminal court in Italy sentenced the man to a nine-month jail stint over the ordeal, and he will have to pay $13,000. 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.

TripAdvisor said it believes some businesses paid for fake reviews and were subsequently hit with penalties that lowered their all-important popularity rankings.

"We think this is a historic sentence for the Internet", said TripAdvisor's Vice-president and Associate General Counsel Brad Young. Since 2010, the fake review market has boomed with businesses hiring "reputation management" companies to write good reviews, suppress bad ones and submit negative reviews of their competitors.

'However, we can only do so much alone, which is why we're eager to collaborate with regulators and law enforcement authorities to support their prosecutions'. Anyone approached or contacted by companies or individuals offering fake reviews should not engage with them but share that information with TripAdvisor directly at paidreviews@tripadvisor.com.

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.

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

As well as the jail term, he was ordered to pay €8,000 in costs and damages, in what TripAdvisor called "a pivotal legal ruling".

The site also features a behind-the-scenes series profiling the work of review fraud investigators.

TripAdvisor hosts more than 661 million reviews of travel destinations around the globe, according to the company.

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.