What Does Tripadvisor Do About Unfair Reviews?

Business owners and their customers often ask what we do about unfair or malicious reviews. Here we explain our approach...

When reviews are unbiased and honest, they are incredibly useful. For customers, they shine a light on businesses that offer great experiences, service and value; for owners, they help attract new customers to the business and provide valuable feedback on what it does well and where it can improve.

Unfair or malicious reviews have the opposite effect — they are misleading to potential customers and can do unwarranted damage to the reputation of a business.

Broadly speaking, there are two different scenarios in which an unfair review can occur:

  • Scenario #1: A review is submitted by someone who is either biased (you can learn more about how we determine bias here) or did not have a personal experience with the business they are reviewing.  We call these  Fake Reviews.
  • Scenario #2: A review is submitted by someone who did have a personal experience with the business (and is not biased by having a connection with the business), but what their review describes is disputed by the business.  We call these  Contested Reviews.

This distinction is an important one because it guides the way we handle review disputes. Review disputes occur when a business reports a review that they believe to be breach of our guidelines. Once a business reports a review, we then determine whether it is alleged to be a Fake Review or a Contested Review, and take action from there.

So how does Tripadvisor prevent Fake Reviews from being posted to the site?

Fake Reviews have no place on Tripadvisor. We work extremely hard to block them from being posted to the site.

First, we have a set of posting guidelines that all reviews must adhere to. These guidelines are designed to ensure reviews are as relevant and useful as possible. You can read more about our review guidelines here.

To enforce these guidelines, we use a combination of smart technology and a dedicated team of expert moderators.

The technology kicks in every time someone submits a review on Tripadvisor. Before the review is posted to the site, it has to go through hundreds of automatic checks which evaluate every aspect of that review. We call these checks our tracking system.

The system will either allow a review to be posted, block a review from being posted, or will send it to our moderation team for human analysis if it suspects the review may be fake.

Even after a review is posted, anyone can still use our reporting tools to request an investigation by our moderation team if they are concerned a review does not meet our guidelines. While the volume of requests we receive to investigate a review is low — less than 1% of reviews are ever reported to us — these reports are incredibly useful and help us enforce the guidelines consistently for all. Business owners can report reviews via the Management Centre (which they can access for free), while travellers can report reviews simply by clicking on the flag icon displayed beneath each review.

To read more about the different types of fake reviews and how we catch them, go here.

To read more about how our tracking system works, go here.

How does Tripadvisor handle Contested Reviews?

While more than 99% of Tripadvisor reviews are uncontested, we know that when a review dispute does occur, it can be a serious matter for those involved. Deciding whether a Contested Review represents fair commentary about a business is a very important task, and one we try to handle as sensitively and as fairly as possible.

This is because a customer’s opinion is subjective — whether service is fast or slow, whether food is tasty or bland, whether the cost offers great value for money or is expensive — all of these things depend on a customer’s expectations.

We strongly believe that every traveller has a right to express their opinion, good or bad, based on their own expectations of what the experience should deliver.

We also know that if you are a business owner or member of staff it can be incredibly frustrating when you feel a criticism you’ve received in a review is unfair.

Any business can contest a review by using our reporting tools. Contested Reviews are then assessed by our moderation team, who determine if the review breaches our guidelines and therefore whether it should be removed or not.

If our moderation team concludes that a review meets our guidelines, it will remain posted. In these circumstances, there are still a number of steps a business can take to lessen the impact of a Contested Review, including posting a response that gives their side of the story. Indeed, we strongly believe not only in the customer’s right to express their opinion, but also in the business’ right to reply. We call this feature a Management Response.

You can learn more about the ways in which a business can respond to a Contested Review here.

To learn more about how our tracking system catches fake reviews, watch this video.

Last Updated: 13 July 2018