Fake Wine Reviews: Peer Review Sites vs. Wine Critics
Recently an Italian paper created a TripAdvisor profile for a fake restaurant. Then they went about submitting fake reviews. In no time, the fake restaurant was the highest rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in Italy.
When the newspaper finally called TripAdvisor to tell them what they had done and to get a statement, TripAdvisor took down the profile for the restaurant along with the reviews and stated:
“As the world’s most visited travel site, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the content on TripAdvisor provides a trusted and useful source of information for those planning a trip anywhere in the world. In this instance, we investigated and removed from the site the listing and reviews that failed to meet our guidelines.”
This is funny since, in this case, TripAdvisor “investigated” only after being told the profile was fake. They concluded, yes, indeed, it is fake.
So, is it outrageous to speculate that wine-related peer review sites and services can also be so easily manipulated? (That’s a rhetorical question—despite the fact that I’m not personally aware of it ever being done.)
Let us assume for the sake of argument and reality that I could orchestrate a campaign on Vivino or Delectable or Cellar Tracker that would boost the user rating of a particular brand of wine, as well as serve up some pretty stunning reviews for those wines.
Does it matter if this is possible or if it is done? Certainly it would matter to the brand being promoted if they chose to use the “user ratings” in their promotional and marketing materials.
In this context it’s also appropriate to compare the possibility of manipulated ratings at peer review sites to critics’ reviews, which seem far less likely to me to be faked. I know, people have for many years accused the Wine Spectator and others of giving higher reviews to wines that advertise. But I’ve never seen proof of that. I’ve never been offered that option and I’ve bought ads for clients before. Furthermore, the implications of a magazine doing this are so dire, it seems like the most desperate thing they could possibly do.