For First Time Ever, Fake Reviews Get Guy Sent to Jail

TripAdvisor hails landmark ruling in Italy
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2018 11:05 AM CDT
Guy Sent to Jail for Fake Online Reviews
The company logo for the travel website TripAdvisor hangs at the company's headquarters on Nov. 2, 2017, in Needham, Mass.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

For what is believed to be the first time, a person has been sent to jail for writing fake reviews online. The Italian man ran a company called PromoSalento, which sold hotels fake reviews, and in what's being widely hailed as a landmark ruling this week a court in the country deemed the act was "criminal conduct" and sentenced him to nine months behind bars plus a $9,300 fine, Quartz reports. TripAdvisor, which has been fighting fake reviews for years, learned of PromoSalento after hotels let the tourism site know the company had approached them offering to sell them reviews. 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.

"Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result," says a member of TripAdvisor's legal team in a statement that also highlights the success the site has had tackling fake reviews. (In this particular case, the company identified and blocked more than 1,000 attempts to post fake reviews, the Guardian reports.) "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." TripAdvisor says the vast majority of reviews on its site are real, but it continues to struggle with fakes: Just last year, a writer managed to pull a stunt that resulted in a fake restaurant becoming the top-rated London eatery on the site. (Read more TripAdvisor stories.)

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