TripAdvisor Is Launching New Tools to Spot Sexual Assault and Misconduct Allegations

Two years ago, an expose revealed that TripAdvisor had removed reviews detailing robbery, sexual assault, and rape because they were either flagged as “inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community,” “off-topic” by staff, or were not considered “family friendly.” The site has since admitted it was deleting posts of that nature, rolled out badges on hotel pages with reports of safety issues, grossly mishandled allegations on its platform again, and now, is launching more safety features in an attempt to illustrate that it does take these concerns seriously.

TripAdvisor’s core experience president Lindsay Nelson published a post on Tuesday detailing two new features on the travel site that serve to help users more easily identify safety-related reviews. The first one is a safety filter that surfaces reviews from the last year detailing incidents of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by hotel employees. It also pulls up any new reviews detailing these incidents as well as death, drugging, sex trafficking, armed robbery, and physical assault.

The second main new safety feature listed in Tuesday’s post is a warning at the top of any review with safety information. According to a mock-up of this feature, the landing page for a review detailing a safety incident will have a small gray caution sign icon next to it when a visitor. Adjacent to the icon, users will see text that reads: “This review may contain information about traveler safety at this business.” And the incident will be described below the warning.

We’ve reached out to TripAdvisor to ask when the feature will be fully rolled out to all users but did not receive an immediate reply. The feature did not appear to be working in our tests but it’s possible that it hasn’t been pushed out in our area, yet. We also asked for examples of locations to see it in action for ourselves since our tests of locations that have been flagged in the past yielded no results and the example in the mockup, “Crescent Cove Resort” is a real location but has no user reviews. We’ll update this post when we receive a reply.

Nelson also added that in the near future, TripAdvisor will be “conducting extensive user research to understand what features will provide the most benefit to our global community.”

“Lastly, we understand that traveler needs and safety concerns will continue to evolve, and our platform will, too,” Nelson wrote. “We also recognize that we won’t always get it right, but we will continue to ask for feedback from our community and make changes as we go.”

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The warning is not that dissimilar from the badges TripAdvisor started putting on webpages at the end of 2017. But having additional touchpoints for users to be informed of any troubling reviews is not a bad thing, and a filtering option is only a useful tool for those especially concerned about traveling to a hotel with a history of violence or misconduct.

Update 5/15/19: A TripAdvisor spokesperson shared links to three listings where you can view how the new safety features work—a resort in Fiji, a yoga studio in India, and a hotel in Turkey—and added that these safety features rolled out to all users worldwide as of Tuesday.

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Melanie Ehrenkranz

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