If a stunt carried out by one Italian newspaper is any indication, Yelp isn’t the only terrible online review site.

Italian newspaper Italia a Tavola wanted to prove that TripAdvisor’s rankings system was flawed and subject to potential manipulation using fake reviews. In order to accomplish this, they created an entirely fake restaurant, La Scaletta, in the town of Moniga del Garda and posted ten fake—and perfect score—reviews under its name using different accounts over the course of a month. By that time, TripAdvisor’s filtering system had declared La Scaletta the best restaurant in the town, beating out another highly-regarded restaurant with over 300 reviews (most of them positive).

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When Italia a Tavola contacted TripAdvisor to let them know what they’d done, La Scaletta immediately and unsurprisingly vanished from the website and TripAdvisor essentially refused to talk to them. When asked about the incident, TripAdvisor’s response was kind of hilariously snotty:

“It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us out, since that is completely different from the fraud we see and catch on a daily basis. We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace.

“We have been tracking reviews for well over a decade, so we can spot what is normal reviewer behaviour and what isn’t- that is how we catch fraud.”

Insert trollface here. It’s also worth noting that last year, Italian authorities* fined TripAdvisor 500,000 Euros for failing to put a system in place to prevent consumers being duped by fake reviews.

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Let this be a lesson to all of us: online restaurant review sites are bad. Never visit or post on online restaurant review sites, for in so doing, you are encouraging them to spread badness and you are thus bad and should feel bad. Thank you.

* Take this with an entire shaker of salt. After all, “Italian authorities” are the same people responsible for this horseshit.

Image via GongTo/Shutterstock.


Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.