Leading travel review website TripAdvisor removed posts warning about rapes at Mexican resorts from its online forums, according to tourists who submitted them, and refused to publish other reviews that described negative experiences.
In July, Wisconsin newspaper Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a report detailing several cases where tourists alleged they had either been drugged or served tainted alcohol at resorts in the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo that lead to blackouts, injuries and sexual assault. Previous alleged cases have resulted in deaths.
Since the July report, the Journal Sentinel says that over a dozen travelers have come forward with claims that reviews they wrote on TripAdvisor reporting their negative experiences at Mexican resorts have been deleted by the popular website.
The practice allegedly goes back at least seven years.
In October 2010, Texas woman Kristie Love wrote a post on the site describing a sexual assault she suffered at the Iberostar Paraiso resort near Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.
She wrote that after going out with friends, she returned to her room to find that her access card didn’t work so she headed to hotel reception to have it reactivated.
On her way she stopped to ask a security guard for directions. He told her to follow him but soon after he overpowered her and raped her in bushes on the resort’s grounds, she said. She went to report the incident in the hotel lobby but staff refused to call the police.
Her post was published but removed soon after by a TripAdvisor moderator who ruled that it violated the company’s “family friendly” guidelines.
A similar assault involving a 19-year-old woman happened at the same resort in 2011 and a Wisconsin woman, Jamie Valeri, was also sexually assaulted there in 2015 after blacking out after just three drinks, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Valeri also tried to warn others of her experiencing by writing about it on TripAdvisor but she too had her post deleted, with the company labeling it as “hearsay.”
Valeri said that if she had seen Love’s 2010 post, “maybe we wouldn’t have gone or maybe that wouldn’t have happened to me.”
On October 19, TripAdvisor republished Love’s original post exactly seven years after she wrote it but it is now buried beneath thousands of more recent threads.
A TripAdvisor spokesman denies that the company is censoring forum participants, although its business model depends on having positive reviews that encourage users to make hotel bookings, either through the site or those of its partners.
“It’s the kind of information we absolutely want published,” Bryan Hoyt told the Journal Sentinel.
But several other users who have tried to publish their negative experiences challenge his claim.
Parents of tourists who have died at resorts in Mexico also claim that they have been blocked from sharing their stories on the site with TripAdvisor again using the “hearsay” defense, telling them that if they hadn’t actually been present, their stories could not be included on the site.
A New York woman booked a trip to an Iberostar property in the Riviera Maya based on its positive TripAdvisor reviews but says that after she had a different experience and attempted to post a negative review, it was rejected.
As recently as last month a review from Josh Resmini, telling how he was drugged and sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at the Grand Velas resort, was also rejected.
“We are unable to publish your review,” an email from TripAdvisor read, again citing “hearsay” as the reason why.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (en)