Freelancer Oobah Butler believes that online reviews are far from reliable. And he should know, since by his own admission he used to be paid by the restaurants to write fake eulogies on TripAdvisor.
Therefore, this year he decided to see how far the falsehood could go. And the answer, perhaps not surprising in our current political climate, is that bold lies can take you directly to the top.
Using a wireless phone and an intentionally vague address, Butler set up a "one-stop-shop" restaurant on TripAdvisor called "The Shed at Dulwich." Then he had friends and collaborators lecture the site with fictitious reviews, shining on the "flavor" earthy and the freshness of the food ".
Like all good and ridiculously unsustainable lies, it expanded exponentially, until he was ignoring hundreds of phone calls and emails, telling the few people who had passed that the place was reserved indefinitely. But then he decided to open the doors only for one night. And things, of course, became even stranger.
Butler summed up all of his experience in an extensive and gloriously ridiculous Vice article titled "I Made My Shed the Best TripAdvisor Restaurant". In a world where people like to sing "False News," Butler's piece is the rare exception where falsehood transcends mere deception and becomes applause in its audacity.
As an amuse-bouche, here are some moments of choice for the great (and only) night of the restaurant:
"I take the four of them, hand in hand, to the garden." As we approach the house, María says: "I can hear the sound of a kitchen!" No, Maria, you can not, the bandages come off, the Americans are silent. "
" As there is no incentive for someone in the real world to create a restaurant false, it is not a problem that we experience with our usual community, therefore, this proof is not real – world example. "
– Tripadvisor representative
" I pay for the dishes of the Couple, I walk away and, watching from a distance, I watch them look at their Mac n Cheese.Mary pulls out her phone to take a picture, looks at the food through her camera, pauses and then saves the phone without taking a picture "
As the few customers of the Shed in real life were not charged for their meals, it is a crime relatively without victims. But, of course, there is a notable victim: TripAdvisor, whose reputation surely does not improve by having his higher-class restaurant in a big city as something completely fictitious. (Deleted the list before the entire Butler item went into operation.)
The official response from TripAdvisor, which you can imagine saying with narrowed eyes and a tight jaw, is that Butler's trick is one more exception. that a generalized deception sign:
"In general, the only people who create false restaurant listings are journalists in wrong attempts to prove us," a TripAdvisor representative said in a statement emailed to Butler. "Since there is no incentive for someone in the real world to create a fake restaurant, it's not a problem we experience with our regular community, so this test is not an example of the real world. "
UPDATE: TripAdvisor contacted Adweek with a longer statement, including details on how it had been tagged and" applied a property penalty "before Butler revealed his trick:
It is important to keep in mind that, in general, the only people who create false restaurant listings are journalists in wrong attempts to prove themselves. As there is no incentive for someone in the real world to create a fake restaurant, it is not a problem that we experience with our usual community; therefore, this & # 39; test & # 39; It is not an example of the real world.
scammers are only interested in trying to manipulate the classifications of real companies, so of course, our content specialists are focused on capturing them. We use state-of-the-art technology to identify suspicious review patterns, based on modeling what the normal review behavior looks like. This is the reason why the distinction between the attempted fraud by a real business, as opposed to the attempt of fraud by a nonexistent business, is important. Real companies, whether they try to play with our system or not, have a lot of genuine customers that come through the door and those customers contribute to the revision patterns we would expect to see. Discovering the difference between genuine comments from a company's clients and their false reviews is one of the ways in which we catch the fraud. If a business does not exist at all, then clearly those patterns will differ from the normal patterns of activity.
Our community can also inform us of suspicious activities. Again, this is much more likely to happen in real commercial cases, where genuine customers enter through the door. Among our teams, our tools and our community, we believe that we have effective checks and balances to maintain the integrity of reviews on TripAdvisor.
According to a PhoCusWright 2015 study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 93% of TripAdvisor users said that the reviews they read are accurate to the actual experience. No organization, company or person in the world has more incentives than TripAdvisor to guarantee the reliability of the content of our site. The end result is that if people did not find the revisions useful, they would not continue to return to our site. The fact that hundreds of millions of consumers continue to do so is a testament to the reliability of our review model.
It's also worth noting that the suspicious review activity on this listing page had been on our radar for some time. In fact, we had already applied a property penalty that reduced its position within our popularity ranking and eliminated several of its revisions, before the listing was identified as fraudulent and removed from the site. From the moment our system identified a suspicious pattern of revisions, it was only a matter of time before we caught and closed this list.