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Guest house tries to unmask critics

The owners of a Highland guest house have gone to court to seek details from an internet travel website in a bid to sue two writers.

Martin and Jacqui Clark maintain one report was false and another set out fictional events.

The couple said they want to raise legal proceedings against the writer or writers of the reviews, suing for defamation.

They have asked the Court of Session in Edinburgh to make an order for TripAdvisor to disclose the names, addresses and other information they have on the identity of the authors.

The travel website, based in the US, has challenged the move over its competency, claiming there is no jurisdiction.

The guest house operators maintain in their petition: "The postings purported to review events that did not take place. They were not reviews submitted by actual travellers."

It is said the reviews were submitted contrary to the rules of TripAdvisor and the postings were not made contemporaneously.

Both writers claimed to have visited the premises in September 2011, but the reviews did not appear until February and March the following year.

It is alleged the postings were made maliciously and "the reviews published were abuse or invective in the form of criticism".

Graeme Henderson, counsel for the couple, said they were applying to seek such assistance as they could from TripAdvisor over the identity of the two individuals named in the reviews as edna B and dreckit.

He told the court: "This is a proposed action in respect of which the pursuers take exception to two postings on the website. My position is they were plainly defamatory."

Mr Henderson said the couple, who operate a guest house, Tigh-Na-Cheo, at Kinlochleven, in Lochaber, said they can plainly claim damages as individuals and for loss of business.

"Living in the real world, there is a substantial claim for defamation," he told judge Paul Arthurson QC.

"Proceedings are more likely to be brought against the two writers than anyone else," said Mr Henderson.

"TripAdvisor effectively is the holder of information in a dispute of other parties. That is really TripAdvisor's role in the dispute between the petitioners and the unknown posters," he said.

The judge reserved his decision in the case and will give a ruling later.

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