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The case involves Mr. Ziggy Hussain who runs the popular Ziggy's Spice House in downtown Halifax (Nova Scotia), Canada.
According to the Halifax Courier, TripAdvisor summarily removed 280 reviews after its "fraud detection system indicated suspicious activity."
The result: Hussain's restaurant was demoted from the number one position in the town to the bottom of the list. Worse, TripAdvisor actually claimed the restaurant was engaging in "criminal activities" by breaking the law in publishing fraudulent reviews.
Hussain cried foul. The businessman wants the reviews independently investigated and says he is prepared "to take court action" to protect his reputation and his business.
Hussain asked online reputation service Kwik-Chex to step in, and he then asked for an independent IT expert to verify TripAdvisor's claims.
What started out as an ordinary but familiar dispute between a restaurant and TripAdvisor now has the makings on an ugly libel fight. Hussain wants his reviews and his reputation back.
Chris Emmins, co-founder of Kwik-Chex says that since Hussain has asked for an independent review, the burden of proof is on TripAdvisor to show how and where the restauranteur broke the rules and committed a fraudulent act.
TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay affirms that the review giant "can identify patterns of suspicious activity by utilizing sophisticated filters and behavioural modelling to scan reviews."
That may be. But detecting fraudulent reviews is one thing. Accusing of criminal behavior, and removing reviews and demoting an establishment is altogether another thing.
A quick glance at the Spice House website shows a mix of good and bad customer reviews. It also shows that the owner has answered negative reviews with comments and explanations.
Unless TripAdvisor exonerates Hussain or explains who is responsible for what they are alleging, Emmins believes TripAdvisor's actions could constitute "legal defamation."