Some of travel’s biggest companies are joining forces with other major players that rely on online customer reviews to launch a global coalition for trusted reviews to help ensure consumers can make informed purchase decisions.
The coalition includes Booking.com, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor, which helped organize the effort. Joining the travel companies are Amazon, job and recruiting website Glassdoor and business review website Trustpilot.
“The trust that consumers and partners have in our platforms and businesses is a top priority for the members of this coalition, all of whom agreed to join together to fight fake review content on the internet,” said Becky Foley, vice president for trust and safety at Tripadvisor. “To further maintain the credibility and authenticity of reviews on our platforms, we aim to make it increasingly difficult for fraudulent actors who try to deceive our customers to operate online.”
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The companies met in October 2022 in San Francisco for a conference organized by Tripadvisor. Experts in government, academia and the industry spoke on common challenges and potential approaches to detect fake reviews. The conference ended with the establishment of a formal coalition, which will next meet in Brussels on December 5-6 for a second conference, organized by Amazon.
“Customer reviews are an important part of the shopping experience, and the goal of this coalition is to ensure every review reflects customers’ actual experiences,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Worldwide Selling Partner Services.
The group has agreed to focus on key areas to protect consumers and partners from fake reviews, including:
Industry Alignment. Developing common standards and definitions for use throughout the industry around what constitutes a fake review and other content moderation nomenclature and measurement.
Best Practice Sharing. Defining best practices for hosting online reviews and sharing information on updated content moderation process and methods of fake review detection.
Information Sharing. Sharing information relating to how fraudulent actors operate, such as companies selling fake reviews to businesses seeking to unfairly and improperly improve their reputations.
Advocacy. Engaging with academics and public policy leaders to promote the benefits to consumers of review content and support industry efforts to combat fake reviews from being published.
“Combating these operators, particularly those attempting to sell fake reviews to companies looking to improve their online reputations, will be an immediate area of focus,” Tripadvisor’s Foley added. “These actors often operate outside of jurisdictions with a legal framework to shut down fraudulent activity, making robust cooperation even more important.”
In April Tripadvisor revealed that about 4% of its 30 million reviews were deemed fake or fraudulent in 2022. The company said its detection process turned up 72% of submissions before they were published on the platform, up 5 percentage points from its most recent reporting rate in 2020.
Trustpilot chief trust and consumer officer Carolyn Jameson said her company is always searching for different ways to take on fake review sellers and businesses that try to manipulate feedback.
“Greater collaboration and sharing of ideas across the reviews industry through the Coalition for Trusted Reviews will undoubtedly be a major boost in the global fight against fraud and deception as we work to combat those who seek to undermine trust online,” she said.
The Shiji Reviewpro Guest Experience Benchmark provides a snapshot of how big customer reviews are in travel, at least for hotels. Its report for the second quarter of 2023 analyzed more than 3 million reviews and 9 million review comments for 9,500 hotels globally in 53 review sources and online travel agencies.
The report found that Booking.com generated more than 39% of hotel reviews over the period, while Google was next at 32%, followed by Tripadvisor (10%) and Expedia (5%).
“With more than 300 million verified reviews from real guests on our platform, we are actively invested in ensuring the ongoing credibility of our program, both for travelers and our partners,” said Spencer Mott, chief security officer at Booking.com. “From machine learning fraud detection models to custom-made tooling for our teams of experienced moderators, we are continuously enhancing our efforts, including through collaborating with this coalition of like-minded platforms. Together we can explore best practices and learn from each other, thereby increasing awareness across the industry to the benefit of an even wider array of consumers and businesses.”
Expedia Group vice president for marketplace experience and trust CJ Allen said the company uses technology not only to detect fake reviews but also to help validate their integrity and transparency.
“Authentic reviews are crucial for travelers when booking accommodations, destinations and experiences,” Allen said, adding, “Expedia Group takes pride in participating in this coalition to combat these fake actors, who pose a direct threat to our industry’s most valuable asset: trust.”
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