TripAdvisor deletes assault warnings

Kiev, Ukraine - May 16, 2014: Man in a car planning a trip using Tripadvisor app on Apple iPhone 5S. Tripadvisor is a travel guide source providing reviews, photos and advice for hotels and vacations.

TripAdvisor are in hot water after users have accused the site of deleting their reviews that document experiences of rape and assault.

The investigation into the allegations conducted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, found that TripAdvisor had removed a user’s hotel review that detailed rape by a security guard while staying at a Mexican resort.

The user, Kristie Love made the review in 2010, in hope of warning other travellers of her ordeal.

TripAdvisor swiftly deleted the review claiming it violated family-friendly guidelines.

What’s more damming is that after Kristie’s review was removed, two more experiences of rape or sexual assault were reported at the same Mexican resort.

Mother of six from Wisconsin US, Jamie Valeri, told the Journal Sentinel that she may have made alternative accommodation arrangements if Kristie’s review had remained public on the site.

“Maybe we wouldn’t have gone or maybe that wouldn’t have happened to me,” Ms Valeri said.

Kristie’s review is one of dozens reported as being removed by TripAdvisor after they were “determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community” or deemed “hearsay”.

According to the Journal Sentinel’s investigation, reviews describing accounts of tainted alcohol, rape, blackouts and assault had all been deleted.

On 19 October, seven years after the fact, TripAdvisor decided to republish Love’s original post.

It’s dated status however, meant it was squashed under thousands of other recent comments.

Since 2010, TripAdvisor has updated how family friendly guidelines are to be applied when determining suitability of reviews.

It is relevant to note that most of TripAdvisor’s revenue comes from advertisement and commission.

They retain some commission from hotels when guests book directly through the site. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by the Journal Sentinel, TripAdvisor’s relationship with hotels is essential to their business model, placing emphasis on turning their visitors to the site into “engaged users and bookers”.

The contention lies between what role TripAdvisor plays as a forum for users to freely create and distribute content about real travel experiences, and their role as a commercial enterprise.

“TripAdvisor has always maintained — since our founding — a strict separation between our commerce and content businesses,” Tripadvisor spokesperson told Business Insider.

“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.”

The website apologised in their statement, but failed to explain why reviews about sexual assault and rape, such as Kristie Love’s, had been removed.

“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 travellers should be aware of this incident.”

In response to the revelations, TripAdvisor are introducing a badge system that would notify consumers of issues with a business or property.

“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.”

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