TripAdvisor user who posted fake reviews sentenced to nine months in jail


"Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result", said the website's vice-president and associate general counsel, Brad Young.

On Wednesday, a man received a nine-month prison sentence for selling fake reviews to Italian companies on TripAdvisor.

Most companies that paid PromoSalento for fake reviews were demoted within the TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking, while some were given red badges that warned potential customers they were not to be trusted.

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.

TripAdvisor collaborated in the case by sharing research from its own investigations into fraudulent reviews.

TripAdvisor employs a dedicated team of investigators, who use advanced tracking technology to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site. The company wrote hundreds of reviews, but in 2015, some of the companies began sending the solicitation letters to TripAdvisor, which began an investigation.

The site then blocked or removed over 1,000 attempts by the fraudster to submit reviews on hundreds of different properties. In Italy, it is illegal to use a false identity to write fake reviews. While posting fake reviews is not new, the punishment, in this case, is exceptional.

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The global travel community is a vital partner in the fight against paid review fraud and evidence shared by business owners approached by paid review companies is particularly valuable.

'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.

All reports made to TripAdvisor's content integrity are investigated and any information, no matter how minor, can help, the company stated.

The site also features a behind-the-scenes series profiling the work of review fraud investigators.

Website TripAdvisor welcomed the ruling, issuing a statement following the proceedings.

A spokesman for Birmingham Best Inn told Daily Mirror Online at the time: "Many of the pictures are rather old photos, dated from more than a year ago, and don't necessarily hold up to the fact of how those rooms are like at this moment, as they were taken from rooms which have been fixed/remade quite recently".