An Italian newspaper created an entirely fake restaurant listing on reviews website TripAdvisor and flooded it with even more fake reviews.
Not only was the imaginary 'Scaletta' restaurant left on the website for a month, but it also shot to the top of the rankings for the town of Moniga Del Garda.
After journalists from Italia a Tavola flooded the listing with 10 perfect scores, Scaletta displaced several established restaurants in the town which had hundreds of reviews.
The food news website undertook the experiment to highlight potential flaws in online ratings websites and has called on them to enforce more stringent verification systems.
Screengrab via Italia a Tavola
When the paper contacted TripAdvisor about their experiment, the restaurant was immediately removed from the website.
A spokesperson for TripAdvisor subsequently told the Independent: "As the world’s most visited travel site, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the content on TripAdvisor provides a trusted and useful source of information for those planning a trip anywhere in the world. In this instance, we investigated and removed from the site the listing and reviews that failed to meet our guidelines.
“It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us out, since that is completely different from the fraud we see and catch on a daily basis. We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace.
“We have been tracking reviews for well over a decade, so we can spot what is normal reviewer behaviour and what isn’t- that is how we catch fraud.”