TripAdvisor releases 'transparency' report and says it rejected 1.4 million fake reviews last year

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel in Saudi Arabia had to prove they were married

TripAdvisor confirms it rejected 1.4 million fake reviews last year in a transparency report that aims to address complaints that the travel website doesn't do enough to prevent fraudulent and misleading reviews. 

In its 29-page "2019 TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report" TripAdvisor revealed that it received 66 million reviews last year.  Of that number, 2.1 percent, or nearly 1.4 million reviews were found to be fake. 

TripAdvisor says that 73 percent of the fake reviews were blocked before they were posted and that 374,220 (or 0.6 percent) made it onto the platform before being removed for fraud. 

The report comes on the heels of a damning study released by UK-based consumer group Which? Travel earlier this month that slammed TripAdvisor for failing to stop a flood of fake and suspicious five-star reviews and artificially boosting hotel properties around the world. 

In their investigation, Which? Travel analyzed 250,000 reviews for the top 10-ranked hotels in 10 tourist destinations around the world and found that one in seven of the hotels bore hallmarks of fake reviews. 

After reporting 15 of the worst cases to TripAdvisor, the platform acknowledged that 14 of the hotels had already been caught with fake reviews in the last year. 

In the Which? Travel report, the biggest offenders came from properties in the Middle East. 

In 2017, Vice also published a report by writer Oobah Butler who admitted to being paid by restaurant owners to write fake reviews. To prove his point, the writer then mounted a fake restaurant, The Shed at Dulwich: AKA his backyard. Six months and lots of fake reviews later, The Shed at Dulwich became the most exclusive address in London, rising to the top of the charts and becoming the No. 1 restaurant in the city.

For its part, TripAdvisor says that all reviews are analyzed using "advanced fraud detection technology" and 2.7 million of the 66 million reviews submitted last year were subject to additional human assessment. 

Overall, 4.7 percent of reviews were rejected or removed for reasons ranging from guideline violations to instances of fraud. 

Which? Travel's tips for spotting fake reviews include looking out for repetitive phrases and words and cross-referencing properties with other review sites. Likewise, check timing. A flood of five-star reviews that come right after bad reviews should arouse suspicion.