First prison sentence for fake reviews on TripAdvisor

Italy jails man for selling fake Trip Advisor reviews

Owner of Italian business that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews jailed for nine months

"Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result".

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.

The owner of Promo Salento was found guilty of selling the fake reviews to hundreds of businesses across the country.

An online fraudster who sold fake TripAdvisor reviews to hospitality businesses has been jailed after a "landmark ruling". 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. The site is also working with enforcement authorities including the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the US Federal Trade Commission, which could mean changes to sentencing around review fraud.

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The proactive focus on fraudulent reviews was laudable, Noonan said, and companies were increasingly deploying algorithms and fraud investigators to catch perpetrators.

TripAdvisor hailed the decision as a "landmark ruling".

In one of the first cases of its kind, a court in Lecce in the southern region of Puglia ruled that writing fake reviews under a false identity is a criminal offence.

He added: "Since 2015, we've put a stop to the activity of more than 60 different paid review companies worldwide. 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".

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It also penalized businesses that had paid PromoSalento for phony, glowing reviews. According to the Boston Globe, Italian officials have previously investigated TripAdvisor for their failure to remove fake reviews from the platform, and in 2017, the company received backlash for deleting reviews reporting rapes and sexual assault at Mexican resorts.

The company previous 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.

Website TripAdvisor welcomed the ruling, issuing a statement following the proceedings. For example, in the European Union, they've been outlawed for more than a decade.

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