An American could get jail time in Thailand for negative TripAdvisor reviews
Thailand has long drawn criticism from human rights organizations and press freedom groups for its strict anti-defamation laws.
An American man could face up to two years in prison for writing negative reviews about a resort in Thailand.
Wesley Barnes was recently sued by Koh Chang island’s Sea View Resort. The hotel claims Barnes has written multiple negative reviews on different websites, including TripAdvisor, denouncing its business, according to CBS.
In the reviews, Barnes wrote that he encountered “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here,” according to the New York Post. In one TripAdvisor review that has since been removed, he accused the resort of “modern-day slavery,” the New York Post reported.
“The staff was not friendly. Nobody could smile. The restaurant manager was very rude and full of himself. He is from the Czech Republic,” one of Barnes’ TripAdvisor reviews says, according to screenshots from travel blogger Richard Barrow. “There are other hotels with better-friendlier staff. Avoid this place as if it was the coronavirus!”
Thailand’s defamation laws are very severe, in particular when it comes to online content. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend was arrested at his school for posting a one star review on Google maps about a resort he visited on Koh Chang. Yes, you heard right [THREAD] pic.twitter.com/18YDRoWit1— Richard Barrow in Thailand (@RichardBarrow) September 26, 2020
Following the string of negative reviews, the resort took legal action. The owner filed a complaint that Barnes had posted unfair reviews of his hotel on the TripAdvisor website and argued with staff over paying a corkage fee for alcohol he brought to the resort, according to CBS News.
Barnes was taken into custody and temporarily detained in Koh Chang before being released on bail.
“TripAdvisor is opposed to the idea that a traveler can be prosecuted for expressing opinions. Thankfully, on a global basis, prosecutions like this are rare and hundreds of millions of travelers are able to express themselves freely without facing criminal charges,” a spokesperson for TripAdvisor told Fox News.
“TripAdvisor was created on the premise that consumers have the right to write about their first-hand traveling or dining experiences — good or bad — as those reviews are one of the most powerful ways to enable others to find all that is good out there in this world,” the TripAdvisor spokesperson continued. “We are continuing our investigation into this incident and are in the process of reaching out to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand.”
Thailand has long drawn criticism from human rights organizations and press freedom groups for its strict anti-defamation laws. If found guilty, Barnes could face up to two years in prison and a $6,300 fine, according to CBS.