Travel website TripAdvisor ‘failing to stop fake reviews’: study

In December 2017, hoaxers briefly transformed a garden shed to London’s top restaurant on TripAdvisor. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2019

Travel website TripAdvisor ‘failing to stop fake reviews’: study

  • The website had taken down hundreds of reviews after its investigation
  • ‘Hotels that abuse the system risk misleading millions of travelers and potentially ruining their holidays’

LONDON: US travel and restaurant website TripAdvisor has failed to do enough to stop fake hotel reviews, British consumer association Which? said in a study published on Friday.
A total 15 out of 100 top-rated hotels around the world displayed TripAdvisor reviews showing “blatant” signs of being fake, the study found.
TripAdvisor responded that it was committed to ensuring accurate information and catching fraudsters, while Which? added that the website had taken down hundreds of reviews after its investigation.
“TripAdvisor’s failure to stop fake reviews and take strong action against hotels that abuse the system risks misleading millions of travelers and potentially ruining their holidays,” said Naomi Leach, head of the Which? travel division.
She added: “Sites like TripAdvisor must do more to ensure the information on their platforms is reliable, and if they continue to fall short they should be compelled to make changes so holidaymakers are no longer at risk of being duped by a flood of fake reviews.”
TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay told the BBC that it would “very aggressively” weed out fake reviews.
“We are doing this more than any other platform out there,” he added.
Which? said it had identified problems at hotels in the Middle East, particularly in Cairo and also in Jordan.
And two Las Vegas hotels received almost half of their hundreds of five-star TripAdvisor reviews from first-time reviewers who had never used the site before — nor used it since.
Friday’s Which? study was published as British regulators seek to tackle the sale of fake and misleading online reviews.
The Competition and Markets Authority has already urged social media giant Facebook and auction marketplace eBay to stop the sale of fake reviews on their sites.
In December 2017, hoaxers briefly transformed a garden shed to London’s top restaurant on TripAdvisor.
“The Shed at Dulwich,” based in a south London back garden, offered invited guests conceptual dishes named after moods, including “Lust — rabbit kidneys on toast,” “Empathetic — vegan clams in a clear broth” and “Contemplation — a deconstructed Aberdeen stew.”
The non-existent eatery had worked its way up the rankings thanks to fake reviews sent from different computers to avoid TripAdvisor’s defenses, but it was rapidly removed.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

AlUla is an archaeological marvel — boasting golden sandstone canyons, colossal arches and rock formations — that has played host to numerous ancient civilizations, making it a significant cultural crossroads. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 18 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

  • Famed for its rock formations and archaeological treasures, the valley’s dramatic landscape inspires creative concepts

JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for AlUla has collaborated with Desert X to bring an interactive installation to the area for the first time.

Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.
It is Desert X’s first international collaboration and starts on Jan. 31, running through to March 7, as part of AlUla’s Winter at Tantora festival.
AlUla Valley is famed for its rock formations, dramatic desert landscape and archaeological treasures.
Neville Wakefield, artistic director and co-curator for Desert X, said the exhibition would bring together local artists and ones from further afield.
“You discover that the same things that we find artists following in southern California — the interest in the environment, natural resources, cultural memory, trade and migration — they’re common for everyone,” he told Arab News. “What’s interesting to me about Saudi Arabia is the demographic, it’s a very young nation. I hope this opens the door to encourage a new generation of artists to emerge and take (their) place on an international stage and vice versa.”

Outdoor exhibition
Site-specific exhibitions differ greatly from a gallery setup in a museum with a controlled or fixed environment. Curators and artists face more external factors that could hinder the installation process from the weather to safety measures such as falling rocks. Wakefield said the uncertainty made shows such as Desert X exciting. “It really is about engaging with the landscape.”
Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.
They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.
Riyadh-based artist Muhannad Shono said he would have done anything to take part in Desert X.
“I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers,” he told Arab News. “We don’t get a lot of chances with free access and support to visualize and bring to life something in the desert — an enchanting and romantic place to set up an installation.”
He changed his mind about the concept several times before finally embracing his design — a sculptural path.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.

• Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.

• They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.

“I wanted to trigger things we’ve experienced as children in the audience. For example, finding a treasure map of the desert and an X that marks the spot where oftentimes, you reach the spot and find nothing there. The chest is empty — either with nothing there or that someone got there first. But the journey and adventure are amazing,” said Shono.
The Saudi artist wanted to give people a chance to unleash an inner curiosity that would set them on a purposeful discovery, not one of materialistic value but to find meaning in themselves.
He said the installation was not easy to find. “It goes further and higher and the more you go, the more you discover yourself. Alone with yourself and that’s what’s important,” he added.

Humans and nature
Tunisian-born and US-based artist Lita Albuquerque has often explored the relationship between humans and nature. Her AlUla project also draws on her passion for cosmology.
“I’ve been working on a narrative about a female astronaut who comes to this planet to see interstellar consciousness. She wants to teach us about our relationship to the stars,” she told Arab News.
The astronaut visits through different periods of time, the artist explained. She comes from the future but also visits the past “as if she’s birthing astronomy, giving us this whole map of the stars down the valley.”
The astronaut sits on a boulder positioned at the western end of the valley, looking eastward down the entire valley.
“It looks as if she is offering something, and below her are 99 blue circles of different diameters that correspond to the aligned stars above. She’s a little bit bigger than life-sized. It’s surprising to see her in such a grand space,” Albuquerque said.
She first visited AlUla last September and got to see the whole region while scouting for sites.
She has worked in desert sites since the start of her career, so Desert X was a natural step for her. “I felt like I was part of Desert X from the very beginning,” she added.