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Magazine Creates Fake Restaurant to Show How Easy It Is to Post False Reviews on TripAdvisor

The restaurant became the highest ranked eatery in the city.

TripAdvisor, like Yelp, is plagued with issues of users posting fake reviews. The Independent writes that Italian magazine Italia a Tavola decided to "reveal alleged flaws in the asking system which they say leave [TripAdvisor] vulnerable to fraudulent reviews." To do this, the magazine created an imaginary restaurant on the site called Ristorante Scaletta and added 10 fake, perfectly-scored reviews to the listing.

In less than a month, the non-existent restaurant was rated the best restaurant in Moniga del Gara. Italia a Tavola notes (translated) that Ristorante Scaletta even beat out another restaurant that features a pricey tasting menu and has over 300 reviews (201 of which mark the restaurant as excellent). The magazine believes that this shows the system is flawed. When the publication contacted TripAdvisor abut their experiment, the listing for the restaurant "was immediately removed."

TripAdvisor denied to the Independent that their system needs work. A spokesperson tells the paper, "It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us." The spokesperson adds, "We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace," and that this situation is "completely different." The site's response hasn't stopped Italia a Tavola which has started a campaign to force TripAdvisor to only allow comments if the user can provide a photo of receipt proving they dined at the restaurant.