TripAdvisor icon can mark where serious incidents are alleged

PHOTO: TripAdvisor says it has changed its rules about reviews that contain allegations of rape or other crimes, following a published report that quoted several users who said such postings were deleted. Steven Senne/AP
TripAdvisor says it has changed its rules about reviews that contain allegations of rape or other crimes, following a published report that quoted several users who said such postings were deleted.

In the wake of accusations that TripAdvisor had deleted from its site posts about crimes against tourists, the popular travel website has implemented a badge to mark hotels where serious incidents are alleged.

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The icon, which was issued to three resorts in Mexico, includes a message that reads: "Message from TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor has been made aware of recent media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing. Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans."

All three resorts are high-ranking in popularity with TripAdvisor members.

"Going forward, we will continue to issue the badge any time we believe there is a current health, safety or discrimination issue relevant to travelers as reported on by either our traveler community or by news media. As always, we encourage consumers to do additional research outside of TripAdvisor," company spokesperson Kevin Carter said in an email.

The icon can be used on any properties or businesses reviewed on TripAdvisor, the company said.

"We reserve the right for other properties and businesses to follow where we see credible reports of health, safety or discrimination issues. Our vetting of news reports continues and it is likely more businesses will receive this badge as more information is reviewed," TripAdvisor said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report featured the story of Kristie Love, a 35-year-old mother of two from Dallas. Love claimed she had been raped by a security guard at a resort in Mexico in 2010 and had posted at that time about the alleged crime on TripAdvisor. Her post, according to the Sentinel, was "repeatedly removed." Two other women told the newspaper they too were raped or assaulted at a resort in Mexico. One of those women says she also tried to report the alleged crime on TripAdvisor, to no avail.

The website issued an apology following the report. In that apology, it was stated that the post had been removed in 2010 when the site was operating under different guidelines.

"A few years ago, we changed that policy to allow more descriptive reviews on the site about first-hand accounts of serious incidents like rape or assault. We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared," the statement reads.

"Over the last several years, this policy change has yielded many first-hand accounts of serious incidents being published on the platform. A simple search of TripAdvisor will show numerous reviews from travelers over the last several years who wrote about their first-hand experiences that include matters of robbery or theft, assault and rape. We believe any first-hand experience should be posted to our site as a means to communicate to other consumers looking for information on where they should travel.

"When we were made aware that this post had been removed under our previous guidelines, we republished it in line with our revised policy."

Carter told ABC News, "Our new badges are intended for instances in which news reports bring new health, safety or discrimination information to light that may not be present in traveler reviews or forum posts. To be clear, there could also be reviews or forum posts mentioning these issues."

He added: "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."

One of the resorts that had an icon added to its page told ABC News in a statement that it was "dismayed that TripAdvisor would post a warning on our profile based on one unsubstantiated allegation against us."

"We investigated this allegation when it was first made. We also cooperated with the police who investigated the matter fully. Both our investigation and the police investigation concluded that the reviewer’s allegations were not supported by any evidence and were inconsistent with various facts. We firmly believe that the alleged incident did not happen.

"Last year we had close to 25,000 services performed in our spa without any incident whatsoever."

The other two resorts that received the badges did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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