Those who browse hotel listings on TripAdvisor may notice a new style of digital badge, which the travel website will use to denote hotels where a sexual assault has occurred. The move follows a glut of media reports accusing the company of deleting comments or reviews (that included warnings from users) on the grounds that they weren’t “family-friendly” or were “off topic.” The company, through an employee committee, will now make determinations through TripAdvisor community comments as well as any news reports about the relevant incidents.
The decision to use a digital badge will likely also be met with pushback from those hotels and resorts who advertise and pay for optimal placement on the website. However, TripAdvisor ultimately decided that maintaining user trust and promoting the safety of its approximately 455 million users aren’t worth any price tag. Company spokesman Kevin Carter told the New York Times that the badges won’t be removed upon complaint:
“These badges will remain on TripAdvisor for up to three months. However, if the issues persist we may extend the duration of the badge. These badges are intended to be informative, not punitive. We want consumers to see good and bad reviews of businesses.”
One of the investigative reports that led to TripAdvisor’s decision arrived from Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel, which detailed horrific stories from some Mexico resorts, including one where a college student died under mysterious circumstances. The paper also spoke to one TripAdvisor user who said she reported being served tainted alcohol, but her review was deleted after being deemed “hearsay.” Other users accused TripAdvisor of deleting their reviews that included first-hand accounts of rapes or other injuries by the hand of resort employees.
The New York Times notes that TripAdvisor also took note of the recent outpouring of accusations against Harvey Weinstein (and other men in power), along with the #MeToo hashtag that led thousands of women to share their stories of sexual assault. According to one travel analyst who spoke with the paper, these stories served as a “wakeup call to TripAdvisor.”