A man has been sentenced to nine months in prison for writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor in a landmark fraud ruling.
You heard correctly, folks, you can now wind up behind bars for posting fake junk on the internet. Why would have thought?
In one of the first legal cases of its kind, the Criminal Court of Lecce ruled that writing fake reviews using a false identity is criminal conduct under Italian criminal law.
The owner of PromoSalento, which sold fake review packages to hospitality businesses in Italy, was ordered to pay approximately 8,000 Euros in costs and damages.
Paid review fraud – when companies or individuals ‘sell’ fake reviews to business owners – is a violation of the law in many jurisdictions, but this is one of the first cases of enforcement resulting in a criminal conviction.
TripAdvisor supported the prosecution of PromoSalento as a civil claimant by sharing evidence from its extensive in-house fraud investigations and providing support from its Italian legal counsel.
The platform said in a statement it takes review fraud extremely seriously and employs advanced tracking technology and a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site.
“We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet,” Brad Young, VP, Associate General Counsel, TripAdvisor, said.
“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 Pascal Lamy, Chairman, 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.”
TripAdvisor has urged anyone approached or contacted by companies or individuals offering fake reviews to contact email@example.com.