Italian Court Realizes Ridiculousness Of Fining TripAdvisor Over User Reviews

from the well,-at-least-there's-that dept

Back in December, we wrote about a ridiculous situation in Italy, where the site TripAdvisor was fined €500,000 by local regulators because it wasn't magically stopping people from posting "false reviews" on the site. As we noted at the time, it's stories like this that show why, here in the US, Section 230 of the CDA is so important. It makes it clear that you don't blame a third-party website for actions of its users. What the regulators were demanding was an impossibility. There is no realistic way for a user review site to make sure all the reviews are legit, at least not if it wants to allow user reviews, rather than hiring staff to do every review.

Thankfully, an Italian court has now overturned the fine and acknowledged that it was ridiculous in the first place. Rather than focusing on the problems of intermediary liability, the court just notes that TripAdvisor never made any promises that the reviews were accurate:
“TripAdvisor never asserted that all its reviews were true, pointing out instead that it is impossible to exercise a blanket control and inviting users to consider ‘trends’ in the reviews rather than single contributions,” the court said. “We do not understand the harm to the consumer identified by the Authority in its concluding arguments.”
That's good, though apparently a ridiculous counterproductive group called the National Consumers Union who brought the complaint in the first place wants to keep pressing the issue:
The National Consumers Union remained unconvinced, saying it intended to appeal the court’s “crude thesis.”

“We recognize that controlling on the Web may be more complicated than in a physical market, but the law and supervisory activity cannot remain permanently two steps behind current progress,” Massimiliano Dona, the union’s secretary, said in a statement.
This, of course, makes no sense. It's an argument for not the internet, in which anyone can express an opinion, but rather a top-down broadcast system, in which any statement must first be vetted. That would, effectively, destroy much of the power of the internet. It's hard to see how that helps "consumers" in Italy at all.

Filed Under: intermediary liability, italy, reviews, user generated content
Companies: tripadvisor


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  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 2:15pm

    Frauds

    Anyone who was used online reviews knows not to rely too much on a specific review but to rely more on overall trend and general credibility of the reviews. These loons either are shakedown artists or totally incompetent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rasz_pl, 16 Jul 2015 @ 3:19pm

    TripAdvisor actually DID promise all of their reviews are "genuine". This is misleading advertising.

    I understand its ok in US to lie in commercials, but EU is different matter. Remember MAC Powerpc ad campain? Got pulled after claiming "fastest pc on the market" bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      deadspatula (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 3:30pm

      Re:

      Genuine, perhaps. I've never seen that claim made. But I can be a genuine customer and leave a dishonest review. And that's the distinction the court made.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2015 @ 4:56am

      Re:

      "its ok in US to lie in commercials"

      It's much worse than that.

      A FLA court determined that it is ok for a news broadcast to lie about current events, because it is entertainment.

      Politicians act shocked when their constituents believe their bullshit because politicians lie all the time, everyone knows that and they should not be surprised.

      Ads are not supposed to blatantly lie but are allowed to stretch the truth quite a bit. Truth in advertising was a thing that died a long time ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 7:00pm

    Consumatori Nazionali Unione

    Isn't it odd that "Consumatori Nazionali Unione", which describes itself as, "The first association about consumers in Italy" ("La prima associazione about consumatori in Italia") would bring a case like this?

    Whose rights are they protecting again?

    I suspect this is more about Trip Advisor competition than it is about bad reviews.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 17 Jul 2015 @ 5:25am

    It makes perfect sense

    I think you are on the wrong side of this TechDirt! Totally wrong! We all know that the companies have a magic red button that can automatically delete all false reviews.

    You're just defending them not using the magic red button. Perhaps, the judge should assign a neutral third party to TripAdvisor to sit in the control room and hit the magic red button on a fixed schedule.

    Obviously, that's an easy fix to the problem. Darn those EVIL TripAdvisor people and their reluctance to press the magic red button!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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