TripAdvisor targeting sexual assault with new feature

Those who browse hotel listings on TripAdvisor may notice a new style of digital badge, which the travel website will use to denote hotels where a sexual assault has occurred.

"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. Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans", the badge reads. These badges are only temporary, however, and last for a three-month period. TripAdvisor also removed her posts warning other users about her experience. However, if the issues persist we may extend the duration of the badge.

A representative for the site told the Daily News that three hotels in Mexico have been badged since Wednesday.

On the top of the page for Iberostar Paraiso Maya, a resort in the Playa del Carmen region of Mexico, for example, there is a message from TripAdvisor written in classic cautionary red.

The new approach to warning guests about safety concerns comes after The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week that TripAdvisor had removed forum posts and reviews warning about rape and injuries at several resorts in Mexico. Tripadvisor said the review went against its policy of permitted reviews which used "family friendly" language. The publication's report, however, focused on Iberostar Paraiso: at least three women said they were raped in the resort's premises.

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A couple of years later, TripAdvisor changed that policy to enable users to post remarks about issues that included rape and sexual assault. This incident, along with the onslaught of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, "served as a wakeup call to TripAdvisor", says travel analyst Henry H. Harteveldt, prompting the site to add the badge and a communications feature that will allow the site to explain why a comment was rejected and for the user to "make edits and resubmit their review".

Then, the next day, she saw a statement on LinkedIn from Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, saying the company was making improvements, was horrified at what had happened to Love and others and that travelers should be aware of the incidents.

Following the report, TripAdvisor apologized to Kristie Love, a 35-year-old mother from Dallas.

"WHAT APOLOGY? I've yet to hear a word from TripAdvisor, and certainly not an apology", Love wrote in the comments section of Kaufer's post. A search engine is available on TripAdvisor for customers to search a page's reviews, but keywords such as "rape" and "sexual assault" yield no results.

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