A fake restaurant was briefly the best place to eat in Moniga del Garda, Italy.
Always cross-reference your TripAdvisor recommendations.
An Italian newspaper decided to prove just how unreliable TripAdvisor is.
Italia a Tavola made up a fake restaurant, La Scaletta, which they claimed was located in the town of Moniga del Garda. They spent a month putting up glowing reviews from a variety of fake accounts until La Scaletta was declared the best restaurant in the city.
Now, I know what you're thinking. La Scaletta sounds perfect! Where is it exactly?
The incredible homemade pasta at La Scaletta.
But also, you're thinking: hey, I've used TripAdvisor before and while its rating system may not be perfect, it's helped me find perfectly decent hotels and restaurants. Most people putting up unreliable reviews aren't going to be this systematic about it, so who even cares I hate this!
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.
Only trouble is, TripAdvisor actually sucks at catching fraudsters. They suck so hard at it that in December, Italian authorities fined them 500,000 euros. That's the governmental equivalent of a one-star review.
It seems perfectly plausible that a restaurant would create fake accounts and put up excellent reviews of their own business or terrible reviews of their competitor, and this experiment suggests TripAdvisor would have no idea. Thousands of tourists could be lining up for gelato at the third best gelato place in Florence!
The only possible solution? Better fraud-detecting mechanisms. Or get gelato at multiple places just to be sure.