An Australian man has dropped his legal attempt to unmask anonymous users who left negative reviews of his Airbnb property.

David Penman, who owns the ‘Clifftop at Hepburn’ property in Victoria, had launched a Federal Court case aiming to force Google and TripAdvisor to reveal the identities of people who had left potentially defamatory reviews of his Airbnb accommodation.

Penman’s company was attempting to access the names, phone numbers, email addresses, metadata, and internet protocol addresses of those who had left these reviews to then potentially sue them for defamation.

But he has now withdrawn the case and agreed to pay a portion of Google and TripAdvisor’s legal costs, The Age reported.

The result has been hailed as a “win for the travel community” by TripAdvisor assistant general counsel Mark Scodie, who said the company had a “duty” to protect the anonymity of its reviewers.

“TripAdvisor is built on the premise that it is important to allow travellers to easily share and read authentic reviews – both good and bad – to help guide decision-making when planning trips,” Scodie said.

“If businesses were permitted to pressure customers to remove critical opinions, the result could be withholding information from TripAdvisor’s community of travellers, thereby resulting in a less informed travelling public.”

The Clifftop at Hepburn property is the “winner of countless awards, accolades and media coverage”, according to its website.

In May this year Penman responded to a negative Google review threatening to unmask the unnamed poster.

“This is a fake review as this guest has never stayed with us,” he wrote.

“Another in a number of recent fake reviews aimed at damaging our brand as much as possible. The Federal Court claim that has already been filed will unearth the author of this review even if they are hiding behind a VPN.”

Penman has previously been fined $2,500 without conviction after pleading guilty to using a carriage device to harass a former guest after they gave the Airbnb two stars out of five, as The Age reported.

It’s not the first time someone has attempted to use the courts to unmask the identity of negative reviewers.

In February 2020 a Melbourne dentist successfully went to court to force Google to identify the person who left an anonymous bad review of his practice which told others to “STAY AWAY”.

Google had previously argued that it did not have “any means to investigate where and when the ID was created”, but this was rejected by the Judge.

In the same month an Adelaide lawyer was awarded $750,000 over bad Google reviews, left by someone who was never a client of his.

The lawyer, Gordon Cheng, claimed he lost about 80 percent of his clients as a result of the bad review. He was awarded $550,000 for lost income and goodwill, $100,000 for harm suffered and $100,000 for aggravated damages.

Other cases have seen those on the receiving end of a negative review attempt to sue Google directly to get these posts removed.

In July 2020 a Gold Coast accountant took legal action in an attempt to make Google remove an anonymous critical review left about his company, along with two other one-star reviews.

To launch defamation action over a negative online review, the new ‘serious harm test threshold’ must now be met.

This was tested for one of the first times at the start of this year, with a NSW judge finding that a one-star Google review of a house painter did not reach the threshold needed to launch legal action.