If governments and regulators around the world can agree on anything (which they normally can’t), it’s that it’s nigh on impossible to control the internet without a ruddy Great Firewall a la China. Nonetheless, many are doing their best to bring some order to the lawless online jungle and the latest is Italy’s competition regulator, which is fining TripAdvisor for not stopping false reviews finding their way onto its site.
The watchdog has slapped a €500,000 (£393,000) fine on the site, saying it has been promoting its reviews – including the allegedly false ones – as ‘authentic and genuine’. TripAdvisor has now been given 90 days to come up with a solution, according to The Guardian.
The punishment comes after a seven-month investigation that was prompted by a complaint from a consumer protection group and, less surprisingly, a hoteliers’ association.
The US-based site has in some cases become a forum for rival hotels and restaurants to anonymously slag one another off, and sometimes, just sometimes, the customer isn’t always right. But many tourism businesses haven’t taken kindly to having the glaringly honest light that is the internet review shone on them – one Blackpool hotel fined a couple £100 after they described it as a ‘filthy stinking hovel’ (it later refunded them and scrapped the policy after the news went viral).
TripAdvisor, for its part, is appealing the fine. ‘Our systems and procedures are extremely efficient in protecting consumers from a small minority of people who try to con our system,’ it said. ‘We firmly believe that Tripadvisor is a force for good, both for consumers and the hospitality industry.’ But of course.