Fake news, fake reviews: Who in the world can we trust?

Vado
Vado
Oct 25, 2018 · 4 min read

From deciding on a destination, picking out a hotel, to making a restaurant reservation, we all read reviews when it comes to travel. It’s one of the many conveniences of a digital age — and, even better, we can bypass the brand-generated content of the advertising world, and go straight to our peers for candid, real-world experiences.

Or, so we thought.

According to a recent study, review website TripAdvisor reached 60 per cent of all travellers who researched and ultimately booked travel online in Q2 and Q3 of 2017[1], its bank of more than 660 million reviews and opinions testament to its huge success. And yet, according to the travel association ABTA, trust in review sites such as TripAdvisor is in rapid decline. So much so that only two in five (39 per cent) prospective travellers now say they trust in them for information and inspiration, in comparison to just over half (53 per cent) in 2017 — a 26 per cent drop in just one year[2].

Why? Because it’s coming to light that a lot of them simply can’t be trusted. In the UK, for example, the limitations of relying on review websites has been highlighted by a number of high profile stories of late; there was the shed ranked one of the best restaurants in London[3], and the plastic tunnel by a supermarket in Bude, Cornwall, that topped the town’s most popular attractions[4]. As well as users trying to cheat the system, hotels and restaurants have also been caught out, amid claims by The Times newspaper that as many as one in three reviews is actually fake[5].

Independent analysis of tens of thousands of TripAdvisor reviews by Fakespot.com revealed that supposedly top-rated bed and breakfast hosts at UK tourist hotspots have almost twice as many fake reviews as lower-ranked accommodation. In some popular destinations it’s as many as two thirds — with venues buying glowing reviews for as little as £7, as well as negative reviews of rivals[6].

And yet, while online reviews might be questionable, that doesn’t stop us from seeking them out. As Ming Ooi, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Fakespot.com, explains: “The consumer has been trained to use reviews as validation, and won’t take action without them now. For example, most consumers will now not buy anything that has zero or very few reviews”[7]. Fakespot.com is a site dedicated to helping customers identify fake reviews, a phenomenon that is undermining the reliability and authenticity of user reviews everywhere. So, how can it be beaten?

“Five years ago fake reviews practically didn’t exist,” says Ooi[8], and now here we are — today, they’re just one of many obstacles that travellers must navigate in their hunt for authentic content. Just recently, Vado looked at the impact of ‘Instagrammability’ on the travel industry, the fine tuning and editing of travel images to a level of ‘perfection’ that’s no longer a reliable representation of reality. The result among travellers is a growing feeling of disillusionment towards the resources and so-called user-generated content out there when it comes to planning trips. Instead they’re turning their attention back to friends, family and other trustworthy figures online to provide tips and recommendations they know they can rely on.

But even this doesn’t come without its challenges. As recommendations become more sporadic as a result, and from multiple mediums — whether word of mouth, via social media, perhaps from the radio, or scribbled down on paper ­– it’s then impossible to store them in one place, let alone organise them and make decisions based upon them. Vado provides a platform for friends, friends of friends, and other like-minded travellers to not only share authentic recommendations and experiences, but to add, store and sort them via a single, all-in-one application.

A multi-purpose platform full of potential, Vado is underpinned by transparency and authenticity that’s powered by the blockchain. All the content on Vado will be user-generated, user-governed and user-inspired. This will allow the community to share new experiences, authentic reviews and opinions, and get rewarded for each activity. By utilising blockchain technology, only verifiable content can be uploaded to the site meaning that spam, dishonest, or problematic content doesn’t make it past the gatekeeper.

The next time you’re searching for the perfect hotel for your weekend away, skip the stress of trawling through website reviews and go straight to Vado to your saved places of interest, or to find out where others in your community have stayed in the same city, and where they would recommend — Vado provides a constant connection to real people, real experiences, and real reviews.

Do you like the sound of being part of a trustworthy travel community? Check out our website ­– where you can sign up to receive an early bird invitation to the app by January 2019! You can also let us know your thoughts, and keep up to date with Vado and the app’s development, on Instagram (@vadoapp), Facebook and Twitter.

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[1] http://ir.tripadvisor.com/news-releases/news-release-details/majority-global-online-travel-buyers-visit-tripadvisor-booking

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/tripadvisor-review-sites-trust-falls-abta-holiday-habits-2018-report-a8575186.html

[3] https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/434gqw/i-made-my-shed-the-top-rated-restaurant-on-tripadvisor

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-45401354

[5] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hotel-and-caf-cheats-are-caught-trying-to-buy-tripadvisor-stars-027fbcwc8

[6] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hotel-and-caf-cheats-are-caught-trying-to-buy-tripadvisor-stars-027fbcwc8

[7] https://www.travelsupermarket.com/en-gb/blog/travel-advice/how-to-spot-fake-online-travel-reviews/

[8] https://execjobs.irishtimes.com/article/http-www-irishtimes-com-business-technology-online-reviews-what-you-read-isn-t-always-what-you-get-1-2868035/

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