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The FTC May Investigate TripAdvisor’s Controversial Treatment of Negative Reviews

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may be looking into revelations about TripAdvisor suppressing negative reviews, judging by a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As the Journal Sentinel revealed earlier this month, TripAdvisor users who had been sexually assaulted at resorts and then tried to warn other users found that their reviews were repeatedly taken down.

TripAdvisor, which makes money when people book travel accommodation through its site, apologized to one affected user and subsequently said it would add temporary badges to hotel listings where sexual assaults had been reported.

However, the Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that FTC acting chair Maureen Ohlhausen had written to Senator Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisc.) to say the agency is—in the newspaper’s phrasing—”looking into TripAdvisor’s business practices.”

“The Commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace, including the robust online market for hotel and travel,” Ohlhausen’s letter read. “When consumers are unable to post honest reviews about a business, it can harm other consumers whose abilities to make well-informed purchase decisions are hindered and harm businesses that work hard to earn positive reviews.”

Whatever the FTC is doing about TripAdvisor at the moment, it does not appear to have progressed to a full-blown investigation yet. In a statement to The Verge, TripAdvisor said it was “not aware of an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission” and that the agency had not contacted the company.

“TripAdvisor is a global user-generated content platform that enables travelers to post positive and negative reviews and forum content about their experiences. We receive 290 pieces of content a minute and need to ensure that information posted on our site adheres to our content guidelines to ensure the integrity of these posts. We stand by our publishing guidelines and how they are applied,” the statement read.