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TripAdvisor apologizes for censoring user reports about sexual assault and rape

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Photo: TripAdvisor

A TripAdvisor user posted about being raped at an Iberostar Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico seven years ago, and today, the vacation planning website apologized for deleting her posts. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story this week in which it detailed how TripAdvisor systematically deleted users' forum posts for various reasons, including being "off-topic" or containing non-family friendly language. Most of these deleted posts described horrific situations at Mexican resorts.

In one case, a woman named Kristie Love reported being raped. She detailed how a security guard raped her and how hotel staff refused to call the police. A moderator on TripAdvisor's forums determined the post wasn't "family friendly" and deleted it. Two more women reported rapes at the same resort in the following years and had their posts deleted.

In a statement today, the company said that it changed its forum policy three years ago and removed the "family friendly" language requirement. "We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like [rape and assault] from being shared."

It said that since the policy change, "many first-hand accounts of serious incidents" were published. TripAdvisor has since republished Love's account and is planning to create a "'badge' notification" that'll alert people of health and safety or discrimination issues.

Obviously, this entire situation is beyond problematic, but the moderators did their jobs as directed. It also sounds like these were real people flagging the posts, as opposed to automated systems. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that although the company is now publishing these reports, it still has a financial interest in helping its business partners book trips in order to receive kickbacks from those reservations.