TripAdvisor cracks down on phony reviews
Site blocks or removes millions of postings in a bid to boost its credibility
TripAdvisor, the travel mega-site used by millions of consumers to plan their trips, said in a new report that it is making significant progress in improving the reliability of user reviews by policing postings believed to be fraudulent or paid for.
The company said that during 2018, it reviewed every one of the 66 million reviews submitted to its site by users worldwide and rejected or removed 4.7 percent of them – more than 3 million – for reasons ranging from violation of its user guidelines to outright fraud.
"Only a small fraction of all review submissions — 2.1% — were determined to be fraudulent, and the vast majority of those (73%) were blocked before they were ever posted," the report said. That's still more than a million reviews.
The company's analysis included using "advanced fraud detection technology" to screen the content of all 66 million submissions, it said, and submitting 2.7 million of them to additional evaluation by human staff.
Last year, TripAdvisor unveiled a major overhaul of its site, supplementing its traditional user reviews with additional content from hundreds of other providers considered reliable sources of travel information, including leading consumer travel magazines and guidebooks, social media influencers, and its own sister companies like Smarter Travel, Cruise Critic and TheFork.com. The site also developed personal information feeds for individual users and became more transactional, making it easier for users to book trips through it.
In recent years, TripAdvisor has faced growing questions about the reliability and credibility of its consumer postings, as purveyors of fake reviews have proliferated. Some have been negative comments posted by competitors of the hotel or restaurant being reviewed, but more have been biased comments posted by a growing cottage industry of shadowy companies that pay writers to post specific opinions about the hotel or restaurant that hires them.
In its new transparency report, TripAdvisor said that 34,643 business listed on its site were downgraded in popularity or traveler rankings because they were caught trying to post fake reviews. It also reported that over the past four years, it has "stopped the activity" of more than 75 websites that were found to be selling fake reviews.
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Just a week before TripAdvisor issued its transparency report, the U.K.-based consumer travel organization/publication "Which?" issue the results of its own study which alleged that one in seven postings on TripAdvisor had "blatant hallmarks" of fake reviews. Which? said it evaluated 250,000 TripAdvisor reviews of top hotels in 10 leading tourist destinations worldwide.
Becky Foley, TripAdvisor's senior director of trust and safety, challenged other online platforms to follow TripAdvisor's lead in taking action against questionable postings.
"While we are winning the fight against fake reviews on TripAdvisor, we can only protect our corner of the Internet," she said. "As long as other review platforms aren't taking aggressive action, then fraudsters will continue to exploit and extort small businesses for cash. It is time other platforms like Google and Facebook stepped up to the plate to join us in tackling this problem head on."
You can download TripAdvisor's full report here.
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