Italian Regulators Fine TripAdvisor For Not Sniffing Out Every Single Fake Review On The Site

from the thank-goodness-for-section-230 dept

We've talked quite a bit about the importance of Section 230 of the CDA in the US, and how it protects internet sites from the actions of their users. Some have tried to downplay the importance of Section 230, arguing that it goes too far in protecting bad behavior, or even arguing that it has little impact on innovation. Yet, take a look at the situation in Italy, where regulators are now fining TripAdvisor because some people put up fake reviews on the site:
The American company, which allows travelers to rate hotels and restaurants around the world, has been fined 500,000 euros, or about $610,000, by an Italian regulator for not doing enough to prevent false reviews on its site.

The fine represents one of the first times that a review site has faced financial penalties in Europe or the United States for failing to clamp down on potentially false reviews.

The regulator, the Italian Competition Authority, called on TripAdvisor to stop “publishing misleading information about the sources of its reviews,” and gave the company 90 days to comply with the ruling.
Except, of course, it's not TripAdvisor "publishing" the "misleading information." It's TripAdvisor's users. This is the key point that we've made about Section 230: that it forces people to recognize the difference between a site and its users. In the past, we've even noted that we shouldn't even need a Section 230 because it should be common sense that you don't blame a site for the actions of its users -- but seeing how frequently people do that, the importance of Section 230 is quickly obvious.

TripAdvisor says it's going to appeal the decision -- as it should. Otherwise, it makes you wonder if TripAdvisor should bother doing business in Italy at all. And that would be a real shame. Just last year I visited Italy, and TripAdvisor was tremendously helpful in picking the hotel where I stayed (which turned out to be wonderful). Blaming and fining the site because some people misuse it seems like setting a really dangerous precedent.
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Filed Under: competition, fake reviews, italy, regulators, reviews, section 230
Companies: tripadvisor


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 3:49pm

    I think if I were running a site like TripAdvisor, I would consider just banning all Italian IPs and follow that with these other countries with strange laws trying to rake in some money where ever they can find an excuse.

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