Saturday, 17 November, 2018

TripAdvisor welcomes fake review fraud conviction in Italy

The man offered to sell glowing reviews to businesses across Italy to bump up their ratings on the Trip Advisor site TripAdvisor welcomes fake review fraud conviction in Italy
Russell Knight | 15 September, 2018, 08:18

A man who allegedly wrote fake reviews for Italian restaurants and hotels on TripAdvisor has been jailed for nine months, the company said.

In what Tripadvisor representatives are praising as a "landmark ruling", an online fraudster has been handed a jail sentence by an Italian court for selling fake review packages to hundreds of hospitality businesses.

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.

The ruling is a landmark one for the internet, being the first time a person in Europe has been convicted for writing false reviews online. 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.

"Review fraud is something TripAdvisor takes extremely seriously, employing advanced tracking technology and a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site", the company said.

The ruling in Italy was a signal that both companies and courts may be getting more serious about the elaborate and lucrative operation of fake review sales, said Tommy Noonan, founder of ReviewMeta, a website that helps consumers spot suspicious Amazon reviews.

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A subsequent investigation revealed "more than 1,000 attempts" to submit reviews for hundreds of different properties.

The company previous year published the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, with recommendations developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube and Yelp.

Hotels that had paid for fake reviews were penalised by being demoted in the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking.

"We know that industry collaboration has an important role to play in tackling review fraud", Young stressed. He was also ordered to pay €8,000 (£7,100). The site also features a behind-the-scenes series profiling the vital work of our review fraud investigators, with new investigation cases studies added regularly.

TripAdvisor is the largest online travel site and its website has more than 460 million reviews. TripAdvisor has millions of reviews for famous locations and businesses around the world.

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