Which!!! consumer site tried to fake review TripAdvisor?
With fake reviews very much in the news following the news that Amazon has plans to sue over 1,000 fake reviewers, our dear friends over at Which!!! have decided to put the integrity of TripAdvisor under the spotlight and have sent in some “undercover researchers” to expose the sites flaws. And they have found some.
But why have Which!!! targetted TripAdvisor? Well, in a survey of nearly 900 of their subscribers, 85% said they trusted reviews on TripAdvisor. Which means it’s even more important that these reviews are reliable and trustworthy. However, owing to the fact that TripAdvisor don’t verify the identity of reviewers, and that reviews aren’t validated or even checked by a real person unless it has already been flagged, Which!!! theorised it would be comfortably possible to post fake ones.
Additionally, rumours abound that certain, less honest of establishments would actually pay actual money for fake reviews to help them climb the slippery slope of TripAdvisor ratings- evidence showed that a single favourable or rubbish review can cause a listing to jump or plummet dozens of places, and this can be lucrative- research by Cornell University in New York found that even a small lift in TripAdvisor's rankings increased a hotel's per-room revenue. So it’s serious business.
As a result, and in the name of espionage, Which!!! successfully posted a series of fake listings and reviews in a test of the popular site TripAdvisor. They didn’t just post fake reviews, Which!!! submitted three hoax listings to the site, and wrote 54 fake reviews about them. Every one of our listings was published along with 18 of the 54 reviews.
While the watchdog’s investigation proves it’s possible to create fake listings, which they claim could lead to ‘accommodation fraud’, in which non-existent establishments solicit payments from unwitting travellers, this is not breaking news, as an Italian newspaper did the same thing earlier this year
Ultimately, Which!!! admit that two of their listings were “merely” flagged for suspicious activity, and only a quarter of their fake reviews actually made it on to the site. So the system isn’t prefect, but perhaps it is adequate- TripAdvisor claims its sophisticated fraud-detection tools ultimately identified and removed 90% of the fake reviews Which!!! submitted although some were removed after they were initially published. TripAdvisor’s own study also says that 93% of users felt the reviews they read accurately reflected their experiences.
So what do you think? Is TripAdvisor a valid and useful tool when researching travek and leisure options or is it all a load of bunkum?