Take note. When you begin planning that next trip, especially if your destination might include an overseas vacation spot, you may not want to believe all the five-star reviews you read. Tripadvisor, one of the premiere websites to go to get detailed information on vacations spots and resorts around the world, just announced that almost 1 million reviews were determined to be fraudulent.
This startling information came from Tripadvisor’s 2021 Review Transparency Report, the second of such reports. According to the report, and what amounts to good news from it, was that 67.1% of fake reviews submitted were caught and deleted before they made it live on their travel guidance platform. Tripadvisor says they use a pre-posting moderation algorithm in hopes of catching the fake reviews.
“Knowing that you can rely on trusted guidance from travelers who have been there before has never been more important,” said Becky Foley, Tripadvisor’s head of trust and safety, to The National News.
“As we continue the work to earn the trust travelers place in our business, we take the enforcement of our community standards incredibly seriously,” she continued.
Foley pointed to their technology and human moderation practices as combined reasons that their fight against fraud is ongoing and very successful. “This report demonstrates how effective our team, tactics, and technology are at maintaining those standards,” Foley said.
Another thing Tripadvisor’s report touched on was paid reviews. This is a problem that is growing in mass numbers. After their discovery, Tripadvisor penalized nearly 35,000 properties for fraud. They also banned almost 20,300 of their members for not abiding by community standards.
Businesses pay out a nice sum to get positive reviews that boost their Tripadvisor rankings and attract potential vacationers to their properties. This is a common theme that is beginning to leave a bad taste in travelers’ mouths.
Over 2020, Tripadvisor reported the removal of paid reviews from 131 countries. This included a big spike in reviews coming from India, though the reviews weren’t necessarily directed at businesses within the country. For this, India topped the list of countries that presented the most paid reviews.
The rest of the top 10 looks as such: Germany (2), Brazil (3), United States (4), Pakistan (5), Greece (6), Argentina (7), Bangladesh (8), Turkey (9), and Italy (10). Russia was in the Top 10 for Tripadvisor’s first Review Transparency Report covering 2019 data but has since dropped out.
The Tripadvisor fraud investigators were also able to identify 65 new paid review sites. In total, they were able to block fraudulent submissions from 372 paid review sites in 2020.
Fraudulent reviews no doubt pose the biggest threat to Tripadvisor’s platform integrity along with the businesses they promote, but it wasn’t only the fake reviews that Tripadvisor had to filter out. Of the over 26 million reviews submitted, a total of more than 2 million were removed. While half of those were fraud-related, a big number of them were removed simply because they included profanity.
Another big chunk of review removals was for violating posting guidelines that included reviewers encouraging others to ignore government COVID-related guidelines, spreading misinformation, and discouraging COVID testing. There were also reviews deleted for including racially insensitive comments about “China” or “Wuhan.”
With their Review Transparency Report, Tripadvisor is determined to point out just how damaging these fake reviews can be. Not only do they hurt the website’s legitimacy, but they also eventually hurt the business if travelers arrive to something less than they were promised through the reviews.
Tripadvisor is doing all they can to weed out the bad, but just know they can’t catch it all. Do your due diligence when searching for that next vacation spot.