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Sunday Times investigates fake TripAdvisor reviews

An investigative journalism article published this weekend by the British newspaper The Sunday Times revealed a robust market for fake reviews on the TripAdvisor hotel review website.

Both hoteliers and freelance writers advertised for fake hotel reviews on freelance writing websites such as i-freelancer.org, where current advertisements for “suppliers that can post real reviews on www.TripAdvisor.com for clients looking for more positive reviews” can be found.The Sunday Times article, accessible only with a subscription, alleges that TripAdvisor is “hiding the scale of the problem.”Indeed, some hoteliers appear to be taking matters into their own hands, with one anonymous English hotelier telling The Sunday Times, “I’ve written probably 80% of our reviews. All you need is a Gmail account and IP cloaking software.”TripAdvisor, a subsidiary of Expedia, Inc., maintains that the vast majority of reviews on its website are legitimate and there is “zero tolerance” for hoteliers and reviewers breaking policy. Penalties include getting a red badge for phony reviews posted on the hotel's review page."Attempts to manipulate the TripAdvisor system are rare as the vast majority of businesses understand the tremendous risk to their reputation and their business if they attempt to post fraudulent information on review sites like TripAdvisor," said Kevin Carter, manager of business and trade public relations at TripAdvisor. "Not only is this activity strictly against our guidelines, but it is also against the law in many countries. We have several of these companies on our radar already."However, the company admits that it is impossible to fact-check every posting due to the sheer volume of reviews, which they tabulate at about 21 new posts a minute.The Sunday Times article, accessible only with a subscription, alleges that TripAdvisor is “hiding the scale of the problem.”

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