Excerpt from Travolution
TripAdvisor was forced to defend itself at the weekend against accusations that as many as one in three reviews is fake.
An undercover operation by The Times claimed to have caught bed and breakfast hosts trying to buy five-star TripAdvisor reviews – as well as negative reviews of rivals.
The investigation found a thriving online trade in fake TripAdvisor reviews.
A glowing five-star review costs $50 on reviewsthatstick.com, a site that operates from a base in Asia. Other websites allow customers to bulk-buy reviews at cheaper prices, with one offering ten for £69.
The newspaper set up a bogus website selling fake TripAdvisor reviews and paid for adverts to appear at the top of Google search results for phrases such as "buy fake reviews". Over the next month, the website had hundreds of visitors and dozens of inquiries.
TripAdvisor strenuously rejected the claims, saying it invests heavily in detecting fraud and has tools to prevent bogus posts.
It said that it had detected The Times's fake website and taken action against it. The company said it had penalised 170 properties that tried to use reviewsthatstick.com.
Critics say that the company has an incentive to allow the practice because stricter enforcement would limit the number of good reviews, which generate bookings.
The Times reported that it opened a TripAdvisor account without providing a real name and posted ten fake reviews with no difficulty. TripAdvisor blocked reviews, however, when the newspaper tried to post multiple identical assessments of different venues.
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