Sept. 14 (UPI) — An Italian court sentenced a man to nine months in prison for writing hundreds of fake, positive reviews of businesses on the travel website, TripAdvisor.com.
The man owned a company called Promo Salento that solicited businesses to write positive reviews for them on the popular travel forum in exchange for a fee. The company wrote hundreds of reviews, but in 2015, some of the companies began sending the solicitation letters to TripAdvisor, which began an investigation.
TripAdvisor then contacted Italian police, leading to the man’s arrest. In Italy, it is illegal to use a false identity to write fake reviews.
“The police investigation into Promo Salento delivered enough evidence of criminal conduct to send the case to court,” the company said in a statement. “TripAdvisor formally joined the prosecution as a civil claimant, sharing evidence from our own investigations and providing support from our Italian legal counsel.”
This week, the man, whose name has not been released, was found guilty and, in addition to spending nine months in prison, will pay a $13,000 fine.
TripAdvisor’s Vice President and Associate General Counsel Brad Young praised the ruling, calling it a “landmark ruling for the Internet.”
“Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result,” he said.