In late 2017, TripAdvisor came under fire for not appropriately handling claims of sexual assault after the company deleted a rape victim’s warning on a review for a Mexican resort. Now, over a year later, the largest travel review site in the world has once again defended its policy of not removing a business listing “when something terrible happens” after new claims of sexual assault.
In an article published by the Guardian, it was reported two women recently alleged they were raped by an employee of a business that is currently promoted on the website. After seeing how TripAdvisor responded to their claims, the women stated the company failed its “duty to public safety”.
The story goes like this. One of the women approached TripAdvisor to tell them that she had been raped by a tour guide of a business promoted on their website. She had already contacted the hotel where he worked and filed a police report. She wanted to inform TripAdvisor so that they could warn other tourists. In response, TripAdvisor said she could leave a first person review of her assault on the website, informing her they did not remove a business from their site if a staff member was accused of sexual assault or rape, even temporarily to conduct an internal review.
“I was in disbelief. Am I seriously being asked to recall the humiliating details of my own sexual assault? Was this global company pushing me to relive my trauma on their forum for everyone to see and comment, or worse of all for the perpetrator who is still out there, to respond to me, troll me?” said the woman, who felt “shattered, hopeless and alone”.
Guardian’s investigation into the company’s handling of sexual has brought into light further unfavorable information. For instance, a review of 40 online reviews on the website that describe incidents of sexual assault resulted in only 14 replies from the businesses associated and only one of them had indicated that disciplinary action had been taken against the accused staff member.
This story has brought TripAdvisor’s policies into the limelight and has made the public question whether the company is putting the safety of the public first. As a platform this is widely used by people, there needs to be more attention given to warning people about unsafe experiences and places. Incidents, especially as sensitive as sexual violence, need to be handled with more sensitivity.
In response to the backlash, TripAdvisor stated, “It is terrible that some travellers endure serious issues such as assault or rape, and we hope our platform can be used by them to help warn and protect others. It is important that reviewers follow our publishing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of our reviews, and when these reviews are not readily available and news reports exist that detail recent and pervasive health and safety matters, TripAdvisor’s notification process helps alert travellers about potential issues at a location.”