Dozens, if not hundreds, of cautionary tales have been removed from TripAdvisor for vague reasons, and new reports reveal the company is under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.
An investigation into the deleted reviews reveals that many of them concerned assaults, rapes, or other kinds of bad behavior on the grounds of establishments. Now, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which helped expose some of the most egregious deletions, there’s a chance the FTC will investigate.
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A letter sent by FTC acting chairperson Maureen Ohlhausen to Senator Tammy Baldwin reads:
The Commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace, including the robust online market for hotel and travel. When consumers are unable to post honest reviews about a business, it can harm other consumers whose abilities to make well-informed purchase decisions are hindered and harm businesses that work hard to earn positive reviews.
This is not an announcement of a formal investigation, but it definitely sounds as though the FTC is concerned. The Journal Sentinel reports that several more people have come forward with stories of TripAdvisor deletions.
TripAdvisor’s response following the initial investigation has been a bit scattershot. At first, it claimed the reviews were deleted because they violated family-friendly language guidelines, while other users whose reviews were deleted were told it was because they contained “hearsay.” In many cases, the reviewers were not told which language, exactly, violated the companies guidelines.
After the story about the deleted reviews became public, the company began putting badges on hotel pages to indicate “health, safety and discrimination issues,” according to the New York Times. The badges last for three months.
We’ve reached out to TripAdvisor for comment.