TripAdvisor scrutinized for deleting warnings of rape at Mexico resorts

TripAdvisor has apologized to a sexual assault survivor after an investigation revealed the website had deleted posts alleging assaults at resorts in Mexico. The belated apology comes seven years after the attack.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shared the story of Kristie Love, who had posted on TripAdvisor about her rape at an Iberostar resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Love said she had her post removed several times. 

"Since 2010, when the forum post was removed, our policies and processes have evolved to better provide information like this to other travelers. As a result, when recently brought to our attention, the victim's initial forum post was republished by our staff," TripAdvisor wrote in a statement. 

But it wasn't just Love. The several-month-long investigation revealed more than a dozen travelers had their posts on TripAdvisor removed for similar reasons. In fact, three people reported being sexually assaulted or raped at the same resort in Mexico and subsequently had their TripAdvisor posts deleted. 

The problem stems from TripAdvisor's content moderation. Other crowdsourced review sites like Yelp and social networks like Facebook and Twitter face similar problems with deciding what violates their policies. Mistakes arefrequentlymade. TripAdvisor also tries to manage any hearsay, but the policy appears to inconsistently enforced. 

RELATED: Check out the best hotels of 2017, according to TripAdvisor:

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TripAdvisor names the top 25 hotels in the world - 2017

23. The Alpina GstaadGstaad, Switzerland

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23. The Alpina GstaadGstaad, Switzerland

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22. Hotel Estalagem St HubertusGramado, Brazil

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22. Hotel Estalagem St HubertusGramado, Brazil

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21. Umaid Bhawan Palace JodhpurJodhpur, India

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21. Umaid Bhawan Palace JodhpurJodhpur, India

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20. Hotel 41London, United Kingdom

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20. Hotel 41London, United Kingdom

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19. The Leela Palace UdaipurUdaipur, India

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19. The Leela Palace UdaipurUdaipur, India

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18. Lindos BluLindos, Greece

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18. Lindos BluLindos, Greece

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15. Belmond Palacio NazarenasCusco, Peru

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15. Belmond Palacio NazarenasCusco, Peru

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12. Hotel Eclat BeijingBeijing, China

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12. Hotel Eclat BeijingBeijing, China

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11. Kandolhu Maldives North Ari Atoll, Maldives

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11. Kandolhu Maldives North Ari Atoll, Maldives

Photo: TripAdvisor

10.  JA Manafaru – Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $811 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($677 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $844 during February 29 – March 6.

 Photo: TripAdvisor

10.  JA Manafaru – Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $811 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($677 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $844 during February 29 – March 6.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

9.      Tulemar Bungalows & Villas – Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $323 per night. Most affordable month to visit: October ($198 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $423 during December 12 – 18.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

9.      Tulemar Bungalows & Villas – Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $323 per night. Most affordable month to visit: October ($198 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $423 during December 12 – 18.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

8.      Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa – Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $102 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($91 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $111 during March 21 – 27.

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8.      Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa – Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $102 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($91 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $111 during March 21 – 27.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

7.      Shinta Mani Resort – Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $151 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($132 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $162 during September 19 – 25.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

7.      Shinta Mani Resort – Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $151 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($132 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $162 during September 19 – 25.

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6.      Portrait Firenze – Florence, Italy

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $676 per night. Most affordable month to visit: February ($410 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $718 during October 24 – 30.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

6.      Portrait Firenze – Florence, Italy

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $676 per night. Most affordable month to visit: February ($410 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $718 during October 24 – 30.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

5.      BoHo Prague Hotel – Prague, Czech Republic

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $209 per night. Most affordable month to visit: February ($139 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $219 during June 6 – June 12.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

5.      BoHo Prague Hotel – Prague, Czech Republic

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $209 per night. Most affordable month to visit: February ($139 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $219 during June 6 – June 12.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

4.      Hotel The Serras – Barcelona, Spain

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $420 per night. Most affordable month to visit: January ($247 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $444 during May 9 – 15.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

4.      Hotel The Serras – Barcelona, Spain

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $420 per night. Most affordable month to visit: January ($247 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $444 during May 9 – 15.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

3.      Turin Palace Hotel – Turin, Italy

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $180 per night. Most affordable month to visit: August ($149 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $189 during October 17 – 23.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

3.      Turin Palace Hotel – Turin, Italy

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $180 per night. Most affordable month to visit: August ($149 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $189 during October 17 – 23.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

2.      Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve – Ubud, Indonesia

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $502 per night. Most affordable month to visit: May ($449 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $478 during June 20 – 27.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

2.      Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve – Ubud, Indonesia

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $502 per night. Most affordable month to visit: May ($449 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $478 during June 20 – 27.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

1.      Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection – Budapest, Hungary

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $288 per night. Most affordable month to visit: March ($252 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $307 during September 5 – 11.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

1.      Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection – Budapest, Hungary

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $288 per night. Most affordable month to visit: March ($252 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $307 during September 5 – 11.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

1.      Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection – Budapest, Hungary

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $288 per night. Most affordable month to visit: March ($252 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $307 during September 5 – 11.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

1.      Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection – Budapest, Hungary

  • Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average rate of $288 per night. Most affordable month to visit: March ($252 per night). Lowest weekly rate during peak season: $307 during September 5 – 11.

Photo: TripAdvisor 

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“To me, it’s like censoring,” Wendy Avery-Swanson told the Journal Sentinel. She had a post about her blacking out from alcohol served at a swim-up bar removed.

TripAdvisor provided several different reasons at the time for why their reviews were removed. One instance claimed the post contained language or was about a topic that was not "family friendly." 

According to TripAdvisor, the site does allow for negative reviews and stories like Love's and Avery-Swanson's. Specifically, its interpretation of the family-friendly guidelines has changed since Love's review was removed in 2010. 

"In fact, a simple Internet search will show numerous reviews from travelers over the last several years who wrote about their first hand experiences that include matters of robbery or theft, assault and rape," the company said in a statement. 

It's worth noting that TripAdvisor's business model in part relies on users booking through its website. TripAdvisor denied any link between how its content guidelines are applied and its commercial relationships.

TripAdvisor boasts more than 535 million reviews on hotel, airlines, restaurants, and local attractions. Unlike other companies that help with direct booking like Airbnb, airlines, and hotels, TripAdvisor doesn't verify that reviews are written by people who actually experienced what they wrote about.

The tech company follows its own publishing guidelines and employs hundreds of people to moderate posts and ensure "content integrity," a spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel. TripAdvisor also relies on software to detect fake reviews. 

The alleged censorship may fall outside of TripAdvisor's offices, however. As the Journal Sentinel notes, TripAdvisor allows non-employees known as "trusted community members" to remove posts. The company declined to disclose who they are or how they are chosen. It did say these privileges can be removed if a member is "overly promoting" their businesses. 

After the Journal Sentinel report, TripAdvisor said it is making changes. For example, Love's post has been reinstated. The site is also creating a "badge" notification that will alert users to health, safety, and discrimination issues. This designation will be based on media reports and other credible sources, TripAdvisor said.  

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