TripAdvisor Scandal: Are Reviewers Being Reimbursed?

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The content of the travel review site TripAdvisor is under scrutiny days after it came to light that several hotels were reimbursing visitors for positive reviews.

According to the Daily Mail, the website's administrators are looking into whether or not the Cove Hotel in Cornwall, England, gave discounts to visitors who followed instructions left in their rooms to get free upgrades by becoming "brand champions."

More than two dozen hotels around the world have already been blacklisted from the site for trying to plant fake reviews or reimburse reviewers, though that second infraction is not explicitly banned by the site's guidelines.

TripAdvisor does claim to exercise some editorial discretion, removing obvious spam and investigating instances of review fakery, but still appears to have no system allowing it to check whether posters ever actually stayed at the the properties they are reviewing.

This lack of scrutiny has apparently created a small market for faked positive feedback. Posts to public message boards have offered money to anyone willing to post pre-written reviews.

For some, compensated enthusiasm is not as big a concern as unfact-checked bile. The editor of TripAdvisorWatch, a blog devoted to documenting the problems with the review site, points out that his guest house took a big hit because of an obviously fake review written out of spite. He doesn't seem to be alone. One hotel owner is even suing a TripAdvisor reviewer for libel.

In the past, TripAdvisor has reiterated that it is a publisher of reviews, not a publication when discussing issues of libel.

Earlier this year, AOL Travel also questioned the accuracy of TripAdvisor's Dirtiest Hotels List, the ratings from which also appeared to be skewed.


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