A man in Italy was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison for selling fake reviews on TripAdvisor.
A man in Italy has been jailed for nine months about fake reviews on TripAdvisor, which the company has hailed as a “landmark ruling for the internet.”
The man’s company, PromoSalento, sold fake, positive reviews of hundreds of companies throughout Italy to boost their online profiles.
In a monumental fraud-decision of a court in Lecce, the unnamed man was handed nine months in prison and ordered to pay $13,000.
In Italy it is forbidden to write fake reviews with a fake identity.
Many countries have cracked down on companies or individuals who deliberately mislead customers, but this is the first time paid review fraud resulted in a prison sentence.
“We see this as an important ruling for the internet,” TripAdvisor is vice president and Associate General Counsel Brad Young said.
“Writing fake reviews is always fraud, but this is the first time we have seen someone go to jail as a result.”
TripAdvisor said for the first time, the research began to PromoSalento in 2015 after he was approached by some Italian company who had offered paid reviews.
The company said in the course of its investigation of the technical teams identified and blocked or removed more than 1000 attempts of PromoSalento to submit fake reviews on the platform for hundreds of properties.
Also punished companies that had paid PromoSalento for fake, glowing reviews.
“Investigation into the fraud is something TripAdvisor takes very seriously, using advanced tracking technology and a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid for review companies and prevent them from working on the site,” the company said.
A restaurant owner, who was asked by PromoSalento brought the case to the Italian police.
“The investigation of the police in PromoSalento provided enough evidence of criminal behavior to send the case to the court,” TripAdvisor said.
The company said that, since 2015 it had thwarted more than 60 different paid review companies all over the world.
“Online reviews play an important role in tourism and in the purchasing behaviour of consumers, but it is important that everyone plays by the rules,” said Pascal Lamy, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, President of the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“Fake reviews are clearly in conflict with the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, which we published last year to guide the responsible use of ratings and reviews on the digital platforms. “The recommendations are developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube, and Yelp, and we know that the industry cooperation has an important role to play in the approach of the review of fraud.”
This article originally appeared on the News.com.au.