TripAdvisor reveals efforts to stamp out fake reviews

TripAdvisor reveals efforts to stamp out fake reviews

Only a fraction of last year’s reviews found to be fraudulent

TripAdvisor has claimed that only a fraction of reviews submitted last year were fake.

The travel reviews giant issued details about its review moderation process for the first time after being accused by consumer group Which Travel? earlier this month of failing to stem a flood of “fake and suspicious” five-star reviews.

TripAdvisor countered the accusations by revealing statistical data on the volume of fake review attempts targeted at the platform in 2018.

A total of 66 million reviews were submitted to TripAdvisor last year. Each one was analysed using advanced fraud detection technology, and 2.7 million were subject to additional human assessment by content moderators, the company said.

Its data showed that only 2.1% of all review submissions were determined to be fraudulent, and 73% of those were blocked before they were ever posted.

This equated to more than one million fake reviews being prevented from being displayed, according to the company.

The firm’s review transparency report also disclosed that 34,643 businesses were subject to a ranking penalty- a reduction of a property’s position within the popularity or traveller ranking. Ranking penalties are applied when a business is caught attempting to post fake reviews.

Just 4.7% of all review submissions were rejected or removed by either TripAdvisor’s advanced analysis technology or manually by its content moderation team. There are a number of reasons why TripAdvisor rejects or removes reviews, ranging from guideline violations to instances of review fraud.

Less than 1% of reviews were flagged by users or businesses for potentially violating TripAdvisor guidelines. The firm’s content moderation team reviewed most of these community reports within six hours of them being submitted.

TripAdvisor insisted that it takes a “multi-layered approach” to ensure reviews posted on its pages comply with the site’s guidelines.

The report also detailed efforts to catch paid reviewers – individuals or companies that try to sell ‘user’ reviews to businesses listed on the site.

TripAdvisor stopped the activity of more than 75 websites that were caught trying to sell reviews since 2015, including one individual who was jailed for nine months by a court in the Italian town of Lecce last year.

The company’s senior director of trust and safety, Becky Foley, said: “Ensuring that TripAdvisor is a trusted platform for our users and listed businesses is a top priority. We’ve continued to make advancements to our industry-leading fraud detection efforts in recent years, but it’s a daily battle and we are far from complacent.”

But she warned: “While we are winning the fight against fake reviews on TripAdvisor, we can only protect our corner of the internet.

“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.”

The review transparency report also highlighted commitments TripAdvisor is making to protect the integrity of reviews on its platform, including:

  • Continuing to improve systems to identify fraud and penalise the perpetrators
  • Further investing in training for human moderation teams
  • Pursuing partnerships with law enforcement authorities to support their efforts to tackle fake online reviews
  • Building on transparency efforts by sharing more insights into TripAdvisor moderation processes and fraud investigations on its insights blog

Adrian Cummings, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland and treasurer of HotRec, the umbrella Association of Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs and Cafes in Europe, said: “Many hotels and restaurants rely on reviews to attract new customers, so it is crucial that review sites make every effort possible to ensure contributions are authentic. The figures released today show that TripAdvisor, at least, takes their responsibility seriously.”