The influential travel website TripAdvisor has been quietly posting disclaimers to warn customers about hotels writing fake reviews to improve their online popularity rankings or hurt their competitors.
The red disclaimers flagging hotels’ names demonstrate TripAdvisor's problem with fake reviews, travel bloggers and industry experts say. TripAdvisor said the disclaimers have been used since 2006 and involve a small fraction of the 400,000 hotels reviewed.
The company, based in Newton, Mass., said it has a successful system to root out inaccurate reviews. “The 23 million reviews and opinions are authentic and they’re unbiased and they’re from real users,” spokesman Brooke Ferencsik said. Last month travel websites and blogs began to log and discuss the red warnings.
One blogger, Jeff Tucker, warned that without changes to restore credibility to the reviews, the site is “going to come crumbling down behind them.”
The company has policies to weed out suspicious reviews, screens reviews before they are posted, and uses automated tools to identify attempts to corrupt the system, Ferencsik said. Users can also report reviews they find are not credible. Ferencsik declined to describe how they determine if a post isn’t legitimate, saying that could help fake posters subvert the rules.