TripAdvisor Helps Put Man Behind Bars for Italian Review Fraud Scheme


TripAdvisor said it believes some businesses paid for fake reviews and were subsequently hit with penalties that lowered their all-important popularity rankings.

A fraudster has been jailed for selling fake Tripadvsior reviews to hospitality companies in one of the first cases of its kind. While posting fake reviews is not new, the punishment, in this case, is exceptional.

TripAdvisor associate general counsel VP, Brad Young said: "We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet. 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 it first heard of PromoSalento in 2015 when several Italian businesses forwarded emails from the company offering to boost their profile online.

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TripAdvisor confirmed that it supported the prosecution of PromoSalento by sharing evidence from its in-house fraud investigations and providing support from its Italian legal counsel.

Where "suspicious activity" continued a red badge was posted on the hotel's listing page warning travellers the business was trying to manipulate reviews.

The company said over the course of its investigation its technical teams identified and blocked or removed more than 1000 attempts by PromoSalento to submit fake reviews on the platform for hundreds of properties.

"Online reviews play a major role in tourism and consumer purchasing decisions, but it's important everyone plays by the rules", said UNWTO World Committee on Tourism Ethics chairman, Pascal Lamy.

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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. In Italy, it is illegal to use a false identity to write fake reviews.

As well as the jail term, he was ordered to pay €8,000 in costs and damages, in what TripAdvisor called "a pivotal legal ruling".

"We believe those who do not play by the rules should be penalised and we have strong penalties in place for businesses that try to manipulate our system", Tripadvisor wrote in a statement on the website. TripAdvisor-branded sites are available in 49 markets, and are home to the world's largest travel community of 456 million average monthly unique visitors**, all looking to get the most out of every trip.

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