Tripadvisor is taking a clear stand in support of free
speech with an unusual action against a Thailand hotel.
The property - Sea View Resort & Spa on the island of Koh
Chang – made headlines in September after it filed a criminal complaint under the
country’s strict defamation law against an American guest who posted criticism of his experience on Tripadvisor.
The American, Wesley Barnes, spent two nights in a Thai jail
and was facing two years in prison if convicted.
Tripadvisor got involved – paying Barnes’ legal fees and
helping to negotiate a resolution, which led to charges being dropped. As part
of the agreement, Tripadvisor providing the hotel a written commitment that it
would not post a “red badge”– its standard warning label - on the hotel’s page.
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Once charges were dismissed and Barnes had left Thailand,
Tripadvisor Wednesday posted a new type of warning on the hotel’s page, clearly
explaining that the “hotel or individual associated with this hotel filed
criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveler writing
and posting online reviews. The reviewer spent time in jail as a result.”
Asked for comment, Tripadvisor head of global communications
and industry affairs Brian Hoyt says, “Tripadvisor believes in the right of
every traveler to write about their first-hand traveling experiences - good or
“Most negative reviews posted are valuable customer service
and learning experiences for businesses who choose to constructively engage
this feedback. However, Tripadvisor strongly opposes any action where a
business, like the Sea View Hotel & Spa in Koh Chang, uses local law to
send someone to jail for expressing their opinion. This extraordinary action is
why we have taken steps to issue an alert to other travelers, in the form of a
notification on the hotel's listing page on Tripadvisor.”
Tripadvisor says it adds warnings to listings for a variety of
reasons, such as safety issues, temporary review holds, fraud warnings and
bullying – which is how it categorizes this situation in Thailand.
In May 2019 it added
a safety filter to enable travelers to identify reviews mentioning issues such
as sexual assault, armed robbery and drugging. It also put a notice at the top of
all reviews with safety content.
After publication, Sea View Resort & Spa sent a comment, part of which is below:
The hotel is deeply disappointed that TripAdvisor decided to dishonor the agreement and put a notification message on the hotel webpage. Prior to dropping the charge, TripAdvisor sent us an email confirming that a notification sign will not be displayed on our webpage; after receiving the confirmation, the hotel immediately dropped the charge.
The mediation process with TripAdvisor also involved the Thai Tourism Authority and Mr. Barnes. At the end of the mediation, all parties were satisfied. We fail to understand how TripAdvisor going back on their word, and not being impartial, is helpful to any of the parties involved in this case.
cannot comment further until we discuss this issue with the Thai Tourism
Authority, TripAdvisor, and Mr. Barnes to determine the objectives and reasons
for such acts that cause more damage to our reputations.