Wrote False Reviews on TripAdvisor Sentenced to Nine Months in Prison
Writing fake reviews using a false identity is a crime under Italian law. This was established by the Criminal Court of Lecce, in one of the first legal cases of its kind.
The owner of PromoSalento, who sold packages of fake reviews to the hospitality business in Italy, was sentenced to nine months in prison and to pay about 8 thousand euros for expenses and damages.
The TripAdvisor travel community supported the proceeding against PromoSalento as a civil party and shared the evidence gathered from its internal fraud investigation team and provided support from its Italian legal advisors. “We believe that this is a historical decision for the Internet – comments Brad Young, VP, associate general counsel of TripAdvisor – Writing false reviews has always represented a violation of the law but this is the first time that, as a result, the scammer We have been sent to prison, we are very investing in fraud prevention and we are effective in identifying them: we have blocked the activities of more than 60 paid reviews companies in the world since 2015. But we can not do everything ourselves and that is why we want cooperate with the competent authorities and law enforcement agencies to support their criminal proceedings “.
Thanks “to our advanced fraud detection and deterrent techniques, the number of scams on TripAdvisor is extremely low – they explain from Tripadvisor – In 2015, our team of fraud investigators identified a company called PromoSalento that it was operating illegally in Italy, and this company offered to write fake reviews for the hospitality businesses in order to improve their profile on TripAdvisor “.
During the course of the investigation “our technical analysis led us to identify first and then to remove or block over 1,000 attempts to send reviews on TripAdvisor by PromoSalento related to hundreds of structures”. The team sent an alert to these structures and penalized them by downgrading them in our rankings “.
In cases where “we saw that suspicious activities did not stop, the next step was to apply a red dot, which is a message posted on a TripAdvisor business page informing travelers of attempts to manipulate reviews by of the business “.
Then the site worked with its own team of lawyers to put an end to the activities of PromoSalento: “In the most tenacious cases, we work with law enforcement agencies and competent authorities around the world to share the evidence gathered and invite them to pursue these serial offenders In the case of PromoSalento, the Italian postal and communications police were already investigating their activities “.
In June 2018 the Lecce Criminal Court sentenced the holder of PromoSalento “to nine months in prison, without the benefit of the conditional suspension, and the payment of about 8 thousand euros as compensation for damages and reimbursement of legal expenses in favor of TripAdvisor”.
“Online reviews” play a key role in tourism and consumer buying decisions – says Pascal Lamy, chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, Unwto – but it is important that everyone follows the rules. “