Certain TripAdvisor users are saying the company deleted their reviews of potentially dangerous establishments without any explanation. Dawn Allison told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a post she’d written about a Baltimore restaurant with a camera in the bathroom was removed, and TripAdvisor emailed her saying it “didn’t meet the website’s guidelines.” (The restauranteur in question had been recently written about in a local paper and charged with several counts of secretly filming women.) Other users, including several who shared posts about rape and sexual harassment they allegedly experienced at places around the world, reported similar experiences to the Sentinel earlier this November. Now the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly stepping in to investigate.
According to a letter sent to Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin this week, the FTC is looking into these allegations. “The Commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace, including the robust online market for hotel and travel,” Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chairwoman of the FTC, wrote to Baldwin. “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.”
TripAdvisor told the Verge the FTC has not yet contacted them in any way. “We are not aware of an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission nor have they contacted us. TripAdvisor is a global user-generated content platform that enables travelers to post positive and negative reviews and forum content about their experiences,” the company said in a statement. “We receive 290 pieces of content a minute and need to ensure that information posted on our site adheres to our content guidelines to ensure the integrity of these posts. We stand by our publishing guidelines and how they are applied.”