How Does TripAdvisor Catch Fake Reviews?

Here we explain the three different types of fake reviews and how TripAdvisor uses a combination of technology and detective work to stop fake reviews reaching the site…

Review sites have a responsibility to identify and take action against those who try to submit fake reviews. It is a responsibility we take very seriously, and so for more than a decade TripAdvisor has invested in new technology and a team of expert investigators to catch fake reviews.

A Fake Review is defined as any review submitted by someone who is either biased or did not have a personal experience with the business they are reviewing. Note that Fake Reviews are not the same as Contested Reviews (where a customer who is unconnected to the business has shared a personal experience that is disputed by that business). You can learn more about how we approach Contested Reviews here.

Fake reviews usually fall into one of three categories: Biased Positive Reviews, Biased Negative Reviews or Paid Reviews.

Biased Positive Reviews

A biased positive review is when someone connected with a business — such as an owner, employee, or even a friend or relative — attempts to post a positive review of that business. We also call this Review Boosting.

Reviews of this nature are unlikely to provide an objective account of what the customer experience is really like given the reviewer’s personal association or stake with that business.

Biased positive reviews can also occur when a business offers its customers incentives, such as a free meal or a discount, to post reviews. You can find out more about why we don’t allow review incentives here.

We catch biased positive reviews with our tracking system, which spots patterns and online markers that might indicate whether friends, family or members of staff are attempting to submit reviews about a business. On top of this, we encourage the community to let us know when they see a business offering incentives in exchange for reviews. Our team then investigates these reports and takes action against any business caught trying to collect positive reviews in this way.

Biased Negative Reviews

A biased negative review is when someone submits a deliberately malicious review about a property in an effort to unfairly lower its ranking position or improperly discredit the property in some way. We also call this Review Vandalism.

Most biased negative reviews come from one of two sources — either from someone connected to a rival establishment, or from someone who is trying to blackmail a business by threatening to submit a false negative review.

There are a number of ways we catch these types of reviews.

Similar to biased positive reviews, our tracking system can spot reviewer characteristics that might indicate whether a reviewer has a connection to a rival establishment. Even if they try to cover their tracks, their reviews won’t conform to the patterns we’d expect to find from a sample of genuine customer reviews. Our system can spot this and trigger an investigation.

On top of this, we have a tool that business owners can use to report instances where someone has threatened them with a bad review in an attempt to obtain a discount or freebie. Reporting threats immediately helps our team block the person who made the threat from posting a review. You can find out how to do so here.

Paid Reviews

This is when a business, either knowingly or unwittingly, employs the services of an individual or a company to boost its ranking position on TripAdvisor with positive reviews. We also call this Review Optimization.

We catch paid reviews using a combination of our tracking system, which identifies suspicious review activity, and a dedicated team of investigators who pursue the companies and individuals that attempt to sell them.

In fact, as a result of the team’s efforts, TripAdvisor has put a stop to the activity of over 60 different paid review companies around the world.

You can read more about the different ways we are able to catch paid review companies here.

Last Updated: July 13, 2018