TripAdvisor accused by ‘countless’ women of failing to adequately warn against sexual assaults committed at places listed on the platform
- A person who goes by K.K. is calling for TripAdvisor to change its policies regarding businesses where alleged sexual assaults have occurred
- K.K. reported a sexual assault and the site recommended leaving a review
- K.K. has said this is not sufficient because reviews get buried and would like to see the site removing the listings of implicated businesses from the platform
- TripAdvisor has said to do so is dangerous, ‘allowing a business to operate in the shadows, without having a transparent record of travelers’ experiences’
- The site came under fire in November of 2017 for denying reviews including allegations of assault to be posted due to not being ‘family friendly’ in language
- At that time the site implemented warning flags on listings with such reviews
- Though TripAdvisor said it doesn’t promote businesses, it does rank them by star ratings, which are provided by users leaving reviews
- The Guardian reported noting 40 listings which had reviews describing sexual assault by staff members that were highly rated hotels or other travel businesses
An anonymous individual is calling out TripAdvisor for allegedly failing to protect its users from patronizing businesses where people have been sexually assaulted.
The user identified only as K.K. has started a petition on Change.org seeking to persuade the world’s largest travel site to change its policy on how it deals with reported sexual assaults, following allegedly being attacked by a tour guide ‘with stellar reviews on TripAdvisor.’
The site currently encourages users to post a public, first-person review warning others of allegations of violence, but K.K. would like to see implicated businesses removed from the platform, entirely.
‘I’m just one of countless women who’ve been ignored or mistreated by TripAdvisor after reporting a sexual assault at a business on their site,’ K.K. wrote in the petition which has amassed over 143,000 signatures
‘In the era of #MeToo, this company is not taking violence against women seriously.’
The site didn’t always invite the reviews it now seeks, however, coming under fire in November of 2017 for rejecting such posts because they were not ‘family friendly.’
A person identified only as K.K. has started a petition on Change.org seeking to persuade TripAdvisor (logo inset at top left) to change its policy on how it deals with reported sexual assaults, following allegedly being attacked by a tour guide ‘with stellar reviews’ on the site. The photo K.K. has used on the petition site is shown
K.K. would like to see such listings removed from the platform, but TripAdvisor said to do so would be dangerous, ‘allowing a business to operate in the shadows, without having a transparent record of travelers’ experiences,’ and instead asks users to submit first person reviews of assaults. The TripAdvisor logo is shown
‘On a recent international trip with friends, I decided to go on an outdoor excursion,’ K.K. wrote in the petition.
‘I never would have imagined that our tour guide, who came with stellar reviews on TripAdvisor, would ultimately rape me, and that TripAdvisor would do next to nothing to prevent him from doing it again.’
TripAdvisor has said its site a research tool, and it does not ‘promote’ any one business over another.
‘We are often asked why we don’t remove a business listing when something terrible happens. Having a business listing on our platform isn’t an endorsement of that business. What makes TripAdvisor different from other platforms is that it would be a disservice to the public to remove these listings and therefore withhold valuable information. Allowing a business to operate in the shadows, without having a transparent record of travelers’ experiences at that location, potentially puts travelers at risk,’ a TripAdvisor spokesperson said in a statement.
TripAdvisor said leaving the pages up of businesses that have been implicated in alleged assaults is ‘helpful in warning the public so people can make an informed decision.’
K.K., however, argues that relying on reviews in not sufficient, as the posts are listed chronologically on the platform, and the solution is insensitive to the needs of survivors of assault.
K.K. argues the existing approach is re-traumatizing and insufficient. The petition has amassed more than 143,000 signatures, to date
‘I’m just one of countless women who’ve been ignored or mistreated by TripAdvisor after reporting a sexual assault at a business on their site,’ K.K. wrote
‘My assault was deeply traumatic and probably one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. But the humiliation I was put through when I turned to TripAdvisor for help was almost worse,’ K.K. wrote in the petition.
‘When I asked for help warning other tourists about my attacker, the company simply suggested I leave a review. Not only was this solution woefully inadequate to warn other tourists – my one star review would quickly get lost among minor complaints about the guide – but it required me to relive the painful details of my assault and out myself publicly in a place where my assailant could likely find me.’
TripAdvisor does, however, offer the option to create an anonymous account, and offered to walk K.K. through the process of doing so.
TripAdvisor said it continues to work ‘to find the right balance between honoring a victim’s privacy and making sure our platform is helpful to travelers.’
TripAdvisor said it ‘believes that every person impacted by a traveler safety issue, including sexual assault, has the right to write a first-hand account about their experience. Even a brief, non-descriptive mention that a traveler experienced an assault can serve as a powerful warning to the global travel community.’
K.K. did ultimately write a review, according to the Guardian, but it was not written as a first person account, so it was reportedly left as pending rather than published.
‘It’s a horrible tragedy when someone experiences a safety issue like a sexual or physical assault. TripAdvisor exists as an informational review platform for travelers to post their experiences, including incidents of assault,’ TripAdvisor said in a statement.
Regarding TripAdvisor’s claim that it doesn’t promote businesses listed on its site, it does rank them by star rating provided in user reviews, and to K.K.’s point, a single review may have little impact on a business with thousands of reviews.
The Guardian reported noting 40 business listings which had reviews describing sexual assault, rape and groping committed by staff members that were highly rated hotels or other travel businesses.
In November of 2017, the company began implementing warning flags on businesses where reports had been made of health, safety or discrimination concerns.
The company said at the time they would ‘evaluate whether to place this notification on a business listing when we become aware of media reports regarding a notable health, safety or discrimination issue at a property listed on our site where that issue may not be apparent in TripAdvisor reviews or forum content’.
TripAdvisor came under fire in November of 2017 and issued a public apology to Kristie Love, 35, of Dallas, after The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that TripAdvisor removed her 2010 forum post about the Paraiso Maya resort, where she said she had been raped by a security guard.
The company said at the time there was a former policy that allowed only ‘family-friendly’ language in user reviews.
‘A few years ago, we updated that policy to allow more descriptive reviews and content about first-hand accounts of serious incidents like rape or assault,’ the company said in the 2017 statement.
‘Even at that time, we recognized that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared.’
The company has said the flags remain on the business listing for three months as a general guideline for re-evaluation, but that each case is handled on an individual basis.
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K.K. highlighted the warning flags in her petition, writing:
‘The company has already bent to public pressure on this issue by implementing a system to warn users about businesses with “health, safety, and discrimination issues.” But the system is proving ineffective and insufficient.
‘Now is the moment to demand policies which actually protect customers from sexual assault and incentivize travel businesses to do the same. If enough of us speak out now, the poor publicity TripAdvisor is receiving compounded by our pressure will force the company to do something.’
In its recent statement, the company said:
‘TripAdvisor continues to iterate on new and better ways to make important health and safety information more visible and available to protect travelers.
‘The health and safety of travelers is a responsibility we take very seriously. We believe that empowering the global travel community with as much information as possible to inform their decisions is an important role we play as a business in keeping people safe.’
In its recent statement, the company said: ‘TripAdvisor continues to iterate on new and better ways to make important health and safety information more visible and available to protect travelers. The health and safety of travelers is a responsibility we take very seriously. We believe that empowering the global travel community with as much information as possible to inform their decisions is an important role we play as a business in keeping people safe’
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