Tripadvisor, Biased Reviews?

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HTripadvisor’s owl been blinded by the headlights of a truck full of cash? It seems so, as rumors (or perhaps more than that) are going on in articles such as this one reporting on a news first broadcast by the Daily Mail online. The news is that Tripadvisor, after many years of honorable service, seems to have had a major slip in its unbiased property reviews policy, pushing holiday accommodations up or down with fake reviews.

The site has always been stressing its motto “reviews that you can trust“, but what if you were to discover that some hotels paid money to get positive reviews on Tripadvisor while destroying competitors with bad reviews? Would you still trust those reviews?
People got paid to pretend they actually visited the hotels they reviewed. Those getting fake bad reviews had to resort to the same method to get positive reviews, therefore biasing the system twice. Tripadisor is a power-house of online reviews, it does hold the power to doom or lift to heaven a vacation rental.

The weakness of Tripadvisor was blatantly under the eyes of everyone from the word go, but it also constituted its fortune and strength. The strong commitment to policing over any fake review and yet the large number of reviews from all over the world, over time have convinced people that it was impossible for a few to control thousands of reviews a day as it would constitute a massive amount of work and staggering costs. Plus, habitual reviewers created trusted profiles that people would read and find truthful. So in users’ minds, including me, the openness and size of the system guaranteed its fairness. After the discovery that scores of people were hired to bias the system on a massive scale, things are bound to change.

It is a pity. Tripadvisor used to be a leading light for Internet fairness and a wonderful example how trust relationships could bring to successful business making and virtuous cycles. I hope all the properties in Tuscany currently on Tripadvisor, and those in the rest of the world, do not get hit hard by this and Tripadvisor can regain the lost trust in its practices and mission. In Tripadvisor we trust(ed).