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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Companies: tripadvisor

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Comments on “Italian Regulators Fine TripAdvisor For Not Sniffing Out Every Single Fake Review On The Site”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What happens when a foreign judgment such as this one is in conflict with US law such as the CDA? Could TripAdvisor prevent enforcement of the judgment in the US per Section 230 of the CDA, or would US courts still recognize it?

The Internet needs clear jurisdiction for all international disputes: A US company conducting business through a US website should be considered as doing business in the United States rather than the country of its customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The Italian judgment is barred from enforcement in the United States as a matter of law. The SPEECH Act, codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 4101-4105 bars all United States courts from enforcing foreign defamation judgments that do not 1) provide as much protection for freedom of speech as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; 2) comport with the due process requirements that are imposed on domestic courts by the United States Constitution; or 3) afford the protections provided by The Communications Decency Act. If a Trip Advisor has assets within the reach of the Italian courts then the judgment may be enforceable, otherwise it’s so much paper.

Felix Atagong (profile) says:

No it isn't

“Blaming and fining the site because some people misuse it seems like setting a really dangerous precedent.”

No it isn’t. Today you posted an article where you find it imbecilic that a website killed all comments on its website because too many posters were insulting etc… Techdirt’s simpler than life solution was that this website should monitor the comments before allowing them.

This is EXACTLY the same situation. TripAdvisor should monitor the comments. Point.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I’m starting to think this is all a plot by European Governments to get the internet to blacklist them. They hope they can make sure that the flow of information stops by suing everyone so that they block access.
Spain pulled the news site trick we’ve seen tried and fail before and this time Google called their bluff by leaving rather than paying them. The businesses who needed protection now are lost online, because they’ve depended on Google to bring them traffic from the snippets and many are suddenly wondering why they shot themselves in the foot.

Italy also tried scientists for murder for the earthquake predictions being off, and had a prosecutor pitching witchcraft angles in a murder trial he was running, while he was being investigated for misconduct in a previous trial.

The governments seem to like the simple answer of blame the internet (the Internet is always Google) for all of the ills and sue to get the money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, maybe...

Let me play devil’s advocate here.

Except, of course, it’s not TripAdvisor “publishing” the “misleading information.” It’s TripAdvisor’s users.

No, the fine is based on information TripAdvisor published ABOUT what the user published. The article says the fine is for “publishing misleading information about the sources of its reviews”, not for publishing false reviews. I imagine the site says something like “our reviews are from people who took trips”, but as it turns out, that is not always the case.

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