American Wesley Barnes was made to apologize for his unkind reviews of a Thai resort hotel so as to avoid years in jail. But if the Sea View Resort and Spa in Koh Chang celebrated a victory, it was premature. Now that charges have been dismissed and Barnes has left the country, Tripadvisor has posted what the New York Times calls a "one-of-a-kind notice" on the hotel's page, warning travelers that a reviewer was jailed for criticism. "This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveler writing and posting online reviews," the warning reads, adding "this is the first case we are aware of where a Tripadvisor member spent time in jail as a result of a review they posted to our website." The hotel's rating was docked, too.
Though Tripadvisor notes the hotel "may have been exercising its legal rights" under Thailand's anti-defamation laws, Sea View is peeved. It accuses the site of "going back on their word." That's because Tripadvisor had helped Barnes reach an agreement with the hotel, which required that he apologize and secure a promise that Tripadvisor wouldn't slap its most serious "red badge warning" on the hotel. But that "basically required Mr. Barnes to convince Tripadvisor to stop acting like Tripadvisor," Vice President Bradford Young tells the Times. The site agreed to the terms but created a new type of warning, posted Wednesday. "Tripadvisor strongly opposes any action where a business … uses local law to send someone to jail for expressing their opinion," the site says, per the New York Post. (Read more backstory on the case here.)