It’s mandatory to always be careful about what you say on the internet to avoid any trouble. However, who knew saying something on Tripadvisor, an app that allows individuals to express their opinionated travel experiences in hotels and restaurants, could get someone thrown in jail?
Recently, Wesley Barnes, an American ex-pat working in Thailand as a school teacher was arrested and charged after posting an opinionated and critical review of Sea View Resort in Koh Chang, an island about 300 kilometres southeast of Bangkok.
In his complaint, Wesley had expressed that the staff was unfriendly and the manager was unprofessional. According to 9news, he also accused the resort and spa of “modern-day slavery”, following a dispute over a corkage fee.
“Do not sleep here! Don’t support modern-day slavery of Thai people!” Barnes wrote in the review.
To protect the reputation of the resort, the resort had retaliated into lodging a report, after he had failed to meet the resort’s demands for retracting the reviews on the travel website.
Due to this incident, Tripadvisor took action as the company issued a controversial warning to the resort after Wesley was jailed for 48 hours. The warning states:-
“This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveller writing and posting online reviews,” the warning said.
It also shared how a reviewer had spent time in jail due to a review and expressed that although the hotel might have been exercising it’s right under Thailand’s local law for defamation, it is also the company’s role to inform individuals so they may take this into consideration when researching travel plans.
As of now, a settlement has been made between Barnes and the resort last month after he had agreed to offer a formal apology at a mediation session.
However, Tripadvisor and other opinionated travel apps work best when users can share their honest opinions about their experiences in hotels and resorts during their trips.
Thailand follows really strict criminal defamation laws and if the laws are broken, an individual can face 2 years in jail and $9150 (RM37,700) fine.