“Step up” TripAdvisor tells rivals as it details fraud battle

TripAdvisor stopped more than a million fake reviews reaching the site last year and is urging Google and Facebook to “step up to the plate” on reviewer exploitation.

The travel platform this week published a review transparency report, revealing for the first time its review management processes and the number of failed fake review attempts.

The report, which analysed a year’s worth of data on reviews submitted worldwide, showed some two percent to be false, with the majority of those never reaching publication.

It is an attempt by TripAdvisor to shore up public confidence by detailing its multi-level approach to ensuring consumers comply with its guidelines. It provides a breakdown of the proportion of reviews that were either blocked or removed.

“Ensuring that TripAdvisor is a trusted platform for our users and listed businesses is a top priority,” said Becky Foley, senior director of trust and safety at TripAdvisor.

“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.

“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.”

Key report findings were:

  • 66 million reviews were submitted to TripAdvisor in 2018 by the global travel community. Every one was analysed using advanced fraud detection technology, and 2.7 million were subject to additional human assessment by content moderators.
  • 4.7 percent of all review submissions were rejected or removed by either TripAdvisor’s analysis technology or manually by the content moderation team. There are a number of reasons why TripAdvisor rejects or removes reviews, ranging from guideline violations to instances of review fraud.
  • Only a small fraction of all review submissions – 2.1 percent – were determined to be fraudulent, and 73 percent were blocked before they were ever posted.
  • Fewer than one percent of reviews were flagged by users or businesses for potentially violating TripAdvisor guidelines. TripAdvisor’s content moderation team reviewed most of these community reports within six hours of them being submitted.
  • 34,643 businesses were subject to a ranking penalty, which is 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.

The report also described TripAdvisor’s efforts to catch paid reviewers, individuals or companies that try to sell ‘user’ reviews to businesses listed on the site. Since 2015, TripAdvisor has stopped the activity of more than 75 websites that were caught trying to sell reviews, including one individual who was sentenced to nine months in prison by an Italian court last year.

Dean Long, CEO, Accommodation Association of Australia, congratulated the platform on its efforts to ensure the veracity of online reviews.

“The industry recognises that TripAdvisor is an important influencer of overnight stays and welcomes measures that minimise fake reviews and improve the integrity of the platform,” he said.

Wes Lambert, CEO of Australia’s Restaurant & Catering Association, said: “Reviews have always been a reference point for our industry’s customers and managing them in the digital world can be as challenging as it is important.

“TripAdvisor sharing information on how they manage the integrity of reviews is a good step forward. The Restaurant & Catering Association welcomes this increase in transparency from our partner.”

The report also details further commitments by TripAdvisor to continue to improve systems to identify fraud and penalise the perpetrators, build partnerships with law enforcers to tackle fake reviews and build on transparency efforts by sharing more insights on the TripAdvisor Insights blog.

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