Fake reviews: it happens, but maybe can be filtered

The Bellgrove case

In the travel industry, TripAdvisor is a leader. It’s the yardstick for reviews and comparison for hotels and excursions. Everybody knows anecdotal evidence about the major problems with the service. Every systems can be gamed, and there are wide discussion how to cope with the huge problem induced by fake reviews.
One of the famous Tripadvisor incident is related to Bellgrove Hotel in Glasgow, Scotland, it was more the product of jokes than the intention of generating fake reviews.  The hostel served about 150, mostly homeless, unemployed men, some of them had drug and alcohol problems, so it did not have a wonderful reputation. In 2013 a number of jokers gave it a five-star rating, and a certain point Bellgrove made the top 100 of TripAdvisor’s best places to stay! I think TripAdvisor reacted properly: ”As this property is a homeless shelter, and therefore doesn’t meet our listing guidelines, the listing itself is being removed from TripAdvisor.” The case generated another wave, even the Scottish parliament discussed the hostel’s conditions ”that generously, could be considered unsuitable, and, less generously, grim, Dickensian, like a Soviet gulag  or similar descriptions 4.”

Benevolence, hoax, permanently beta Any system established to help people and make fair profit can be gamed. It was in the news in 2015 that a non-existing Italian restaurant made the top of TripAdvisor ranking in a northern Italian small town, Moniga del Garda. Italia a Tavola, a leading on-line newspaper for information on food and wine made a hoax to prove the manipulability of rankings on the the portal. First, a profile was created for an imaginary restaurant, named La Scaletta, second fake reviews were generated by a number of conspirators. After receiving excellent reviews, the restaurant made the top spot in the list of the town’s restaurants. I am inclining to agree with those arguments, who feel the newspaper’s methods as ”unethical”. It is more efficient to work directly for a better world, than to try to pinpoint the negative sides of everything which exists. We should understand and accept that softwars are in the permanent beta state. ”Beta” originally referred to the final stage of software development immediately before the product was launched to the market, and a community of ”beta users” gave feedback. Nowadays, many product remained in this stage, and subject of continuous improvement.

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