Nowadays you can review everything and anything on the internet.
Some people have come to rely on reviews to make decisions about accommodation, where to visit, and what to eat when planning a trip.
This is usually where TripAdvisor comes in. The site boasts millions of reviews that will help you make the most of your time and money when visiting a new destination.
The company relies on honest reviews to maintain their standards, but over the years an entire industry has sprung up around posting fake reviews on the site.
To give you an idea of how lucrative fake reviews have become, you can read this detailed breakdown by The Guardian.
TripAdvisor has been aware of this for years, and are now taking a massive stand. When they uncovered more than 1 000 attempts to submit fraudulent reviews recently, they took action.
The reviews were submitted by Promo Salento, an online marketing site targeting hospitality businesses, reports the Washington Post.
The scheme by the man, who was not named, was to write and sell the reviews to companies to boost their prominence.
Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and commerce giants such as Amazon.com, have gone on the offensive against fraudulent, paid online reviews, saying they mislead consumers and undermine buyer confidence in retailers.
The man, who used a fake identity to post his reviews, was sentenced to nine months in prison and a fine of $9 300 ( R140 000) in costs and damages.
“We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet,” said Brad Young, an attorney for TripAdvisor. “Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.”
The company said the man was alone in his scheme. TripAdvisor said it penalized customers of the scheme by lowering their popularity ranking or flagging their profile to consumers with a red badge on their page.
Online consumer reviews can make or break a company looking to draw shoppers. Companies like Amazon banned paid reviews and the companies that solicit them as far back as 2015.
Some reviewers get paid through PayPal or with gift cards for leaving glowing reviews, The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg reported in April.
Companies are increasingly deploying algorithms and fraud detectors in an attempt to uncover and remove fraudulent reviews.
Unfortunately, some of them are still indistinguishable from the real thing, increasing the risk that real reviews could be eliminated in the crossfire.
Eliminating fake reviews looks to be an uphill battle, but a necessary one if industry standards are to be maintained.
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