Man jailed in Italy for writing fake TripAdvisor review - company

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

TripAdvisor's own investigation began in 2015 when business owners forwarded it letters they had received from Promo Salento offering to write fake reviews for a fee, in order to boost the companies' profiles on the site.

TripAdvisor associate general counsel VP, Brad Young said: "We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet".

In a statement, TripAdvisor, which has been repeatedly criticised by pub operators in the United Kingdom for not cracking down on unfair reviews, said it supported the conviction. Since 2010, the fake review market has boomed with businesses hiring "reputation management" companies to write good reviews, suppress bad ones and submit negative reviews of their competitors. "However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction".

TripAdvisor said in a statement that the sentence was handed down in June by a court in the southern Italian city of Lecce.

Tripadvisor now have more than 661 million reviews on their website, and face constant pressure from consumer groups, including the Italian Competition Authority, to prevent and remove fake reviews.

The US company revealed it had helped the prosecution by sharing evidence from its own investigations and providing support from its Italian legal counsel.

The US company identified and blocked more than 1000 attempts by PromoSalento to post reviews.

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The company said since 2015 it had thwarted 60 different paid review companies across the world.

The court also ordered the unnamed fraudulent reviewer to pay €8,000 in fines.

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

Recent figures from TripAdvisor show the site has more than 500 million reviews and opinions of seven million properties, restaurants and attractions.

'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.

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