The Hospitality Industry of India — an industry body of the hospitality industry in India — will certify “genuine” food bloggers. Bloggers without this certification will be booked for “defaming restaurants”, Pune Mirror reported. The industry association has already started scanning the bloggers’ community for defaulters as part of this exercise, the report said. There are about 500 bloggers in Pune, out of which “only 25%” are “genuine”, the report said, before adding that “bloggers cause damage to the reputation to about 30% of restaurants”.

Why is the Indian Hospitality Association doing this? Members of the hospitality industry reportedly raised concerns about the negative effects of certain food reviews on restaurants. Factors like paid reviews and other perks can also influence a blogger’s portrayal of restaurants, the report noted.

  • Reviewers have no knowledge about food: This “new generation of bloggers” according to the report are not experts and don’t have insights about the food that they’re review. “How can an engineer or an IT professional judge about food? It is like an engineer treating a patient and not a doctor,” said Sanee Awsarmmel, chairperson of the Hospitality Industry of India.

This is a concerning development:

  • The internet is an open space where people are free to express themselves. Even food aggregators encourage reviews from users, rather than professional food reviewers. This kind of vetting process for amateur reviewers will curb the freedom of expression of the blogging community in general, and set a dangerous precedent across industries.
  • It is unclear how the Hotel Association of India has the power to “certify” bloggers and subsequently sue them for defamation. It is also not clear what their criteria for adjudging a blogger as “genuine” are.