Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Italian jailed for selling hundreds of fake TripAdvisor reviews

Italian jailed for selling hundreds of fake TripAdvisor reviews

The owner of PromoSalento, an Italian company that sold fake review packages to hotels, was sentenced to jail and ordered to pay about $9,200, or €8,000, in costs and damages for the crime of having written fake reviews under a false identity.

Hospitality businesses in the USA 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 collaborated in the case by sharing research from its own investigations into fraudulent reviews.

The company said over the course of its investigation its technical teams identified and blocked or removed more than 1000 attempts by PromoSalento to submit fake reviews on the platform for hundreds of properties.

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

Where "suspicious activity" continued a red badge was posted on the hotel's listing page warning travellers the business was trying to manipulate reviews.

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Fake reviews are a blight on the Internet, but in many jurisdictions they are also illegal.

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

"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".

TripAdvisor recommends that 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.

'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.

The site also features a behind-the-scenes series profiling the work of review fraud investigators. TripAdvisor has millions of reviews for famous locations and businesses around the world. The company has banned paid reviews and filed five lawsuits against people who write paid reviews and companies that solicit them since 2015.

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