An American man wrote a review of a hotel he stayed at in June through an online travel app, saying the staff was unfriendly and the manager was horrible.
Wesley Barnes, who left a one-star review of the hotel titled: "Unfriendly staff and horrible restaurant manager", also wrote: "No one smiles and they act like they don't want anyone. The restaurant manager was the worst. Extremely rude to guests. Find somewhere else. There are plenty of hotels with nicer staff who are happy you stayed. The hotel then asked Barnes to delete the comment, but when he refused, they contacted the police and accused him of defamation.
Thailand, where the hotel where the incident took place is located, has strict anti-defamation laws that can lead to two years in prison or a fine of 200,000 baht ($6,300). After investigations, Barnes was sentenced to jail time, while TripAdvisor, which brokered the hotel stay, paid Barnes' legal fees and secured his release.
In a statement, Tripadvisor said that it "strongly opposes any action by a business such as sea view hotel & Spa in Koh Chang to use local laws to send someone to jail for expressing their opinion." The red message at the top of Sea View Resort's tripadvisor page now warns potential guests that "This hotel, or people associated with this hotel, have filed a criminal complaint against a TripAdvisor user in relation to the traveler's writing and posting of an online review. The hotel may be exercising its legal rights under local law, but it is our duty to inform you so that you can take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.