- TripAdvisor users report that the site has deleted their accounts of being raped and assaulted while traveling. The users say they were told their reviews were deemed hearsay or unsuitable for the family-friendly site. The site makes money from hotels that pay commissions and advertising fees. A TripAdvisor spokesperson said that the company will introduce a new “badge” notification system.
The travel booking and review website TripAdvisor is built on trust between itself, its users, and the businesses that receive reviews and customers from the site.
But that trust is breaking in dangerous ways, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which found numerous examples of users reporting first-hand accounts of rape and assault in reviews for hotels and resorts, only to find that their testimonies had been removed by the site.
The users were given a variety of reasons for the deletions, from accusations of hearsay to violations of the site’s family-friendly policy. In one case, at least three users reported being raped or sexually assaulted at the same Mexican resort, only to find that their posts had been removed. The deletion of these reviews has likely resulted in subsequent travelers being put in harm’s way.
“Maybe we wouldn’t have gone or maybe that wouldn’t have happened to me,” Jamie Valeri, a mother of six from Wisconsin, told the Journal Sentinel, speculating as to how she might have been able to avoid being assaulted had a review of a prior guest’s similar experience not been removed from the site.
Like other review sites, TripAdvisor must strike a delicate balance between allowing users to speak freely and protecting businesses from lies or exaggerations, but it’s worth noting that the company receives advertising revenue and commissions from some hotels and resorts.
The company has a review filter and employees who monitor reviews they may deem unsuitable for the site. This review infrastructure includes some users and partners who work at or near the destinations that users can book on TripAdvisor, though the company has not been clear about how either are chosen.
A TripAdvisor spokesperson provided the following comment to Business Insider:
TripAdvisor has always maintained – since our founding – a strict separation between our commerce and content businesses. Despite assertions and statements made by a recent USA Today article, there is no tie between commercial relationships with our partners and how our content guidelines are applied to reviews or forum posts published on the site.
We apologize to the sexual assault victim, reported on in the article, who had her forum post removed 7 years ago on TripAdvisor. 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.
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. We believe any first hand experience should be posted to our site as a means to communicate to other consumers looking for information on where they should travel.
We are horrified that this victim experienced this assault on her vacation in Mexico, and other travelers should be aware of this incident.
In order to better inform consumers and provide them with even more information about their travels, TripAdvisor is creating a “badge” notification to apply to businesses to alert consumers of health & safety or discrimination issues at that business reported on within the media or other credible sources of information.
We will continue to work to improve and evolve our moderation and publishing guidelines as we work to provide the most accurate information in the travel industry available online.