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Over A Million Fake Reviews Submitted To TripAdvisor In One Year

TripAdvisor stopped over one million fake reviews from hitting its site last year, as it fights back against claims it’s failing to stop fraudsters.

The hugely popular travel review site is a first point of call for millions of travellers across the world. But sometimes, it can be hard to know which ones are real, and which are fake. 

Who could forget a London writer’s ultimately successful attempt to reach TripAdvisor’s No.1 ranking with an entirely fake restaurant? 

Back in 2017, Vice contributor Oobah Butler turned his backyard shed into the ‘Shed at Dulwich’, a top-rated restaurant complete with friends staged as guests and concocted photos of fake food. Within months, the fake restaurant slipped into the rankings. 

Butler’s prank spiralled, before the listing was removed  -- but not before it was picked up across the world. 

But Tripadvisor claims there is “inaccurate speculation” around the volume of fake reviews hitting its site, which are in reality quite rare. 

In its first-ever ‘Review Transparency Report’, the platform revealed it had stopped over one million fake reviews from being displayed last year. 

According to the report, released on Tuesday, 66 million reviews were submitted to TripAdvisor globally in 2018. 

Photo: TripAdvisor

Each review was analysed using “advanced fraud detection technology”, with 2.7 million of those being assessed by content moderators. 

Only 2.1 percent of them were determined to be fraudulent, and the vast majority (73 percent) were blocked before they were ever posted.

It comes as the platform faced accusations of failing to stop fake reviews that boosted the rankings of top-rated hotels. 

Earlier this month, U.K. based consumer organisation Which? analysed almost 250,000 reviews for the 10 top-ranked hotels in popular tourist destinations across the world. 

According to Which? one in seven had “blatant hallmarks” of fake reviews. It reported 15 cases to TripAdvisor, claiming the site admitted 14 of the hotels had already been caught with fake reviews in the last year. 

The organisation said hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews had been taken down following its investigation. 

In its report, TripAdvisor maintained only a small fraction of its review submissions were determined to be fraudulent, thanks to its “multi-layered” moderation approach. 

It said fewer than one percent of reviews were flagged by users or businesses for potentially violating its guidelines, adding the majority of those were reviewed by its moderation team within six hours. 

More than 34,500 businesses were subject to penalties for companies and individuals who attempt to cheat the system, with penalties increasing in severity for repeat offenders. 

READ MORE: Fake TripAdvisor Reviews Land Man In Jail 

Becky Foley, Senior Director of Trust & Safety at TripAdvisor, said fraud detection is a “daily battle”. 

“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,” she said. 

“While we are winning the fight against fake reviews on TripAdvisor, we can only protect our corner of the Internet.”