Give me your tired, your hungry, your countless netizens in search of the best options in hotels and restaurants… Web-based providers of information all but promise instant bliss these days, for those who know what they’re looking for. Generally reliable information on places to eat and sleep is plentiful, conveniently categorised and sorted by numerical scores. But the very size of the system creates room for misinformation to hide in wait, lurking at times amusingly, suspiciously, until truth seekers stumble upon brick-and-mortar updates that AI still finds hard to detect, for now.

 

Sunday roasts and ghosts

 

Four years ago, Charles Goodall purchased a pub once known as the Bridge Inn in Middleton-in-Teesdale, England, with the plan of knocking it down and building homes on the premises. For a period of about three years and ending in 2016, the pub received TripAdvisor reviews, with comments on such savories as the Sunday roast, and how the service of the wait staff sometime left something to be desired. The only problem is that the establishment closed its doors in 2011. Goodall dutifully contacted TripAdvisor and the pub was in time updated to let the world know that its true status. TripAdvisor acknowledged in the 2018 Transparency Report that it had caught around one million reviews it deemed to be fake before they got a chance to be uploaded onto the site. All of the more than 60 million posts reviewing venues on TripAdvisor in 2018 underwent a fraud detector. Over 2.5 million of these reviews went through additional screening by a team that specialises in checking content concerns.

 

Bon appétit but beware

 

The nature of the way we find such basic services such as hotels, meals, and a growing array of products and services, has forever changed. Convenience is king and options abound. The online world makes it infinitely easier to get around and order a stunning variety of things, with minimum hassle and delay. But there’s still room for improvement to the system, and misleading reviews are a part of the overall phenomenon of fake news, so a little double-checking and prudence is never a bad idea, especially when the kinks are being worked out.

 

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