What Is the Truth? And How Do We Know It’s the Truth?

I came across an interesting news item from the world of travel the other day. It comes from Scotland, where the owners of a bed-and-breakfast are going to court in an effort to uncover the real names of two people who trashed their establishment in “reviews” that appeared on the TripAdvisor web site. (Let me hasten to add that the photo below is simply to dress up this post and is most definitely NOT the B&B that is the subject of this discussion. In fact, truth be told, it’s not even in Scotland.)
This is an interesting subject, however, and I’ve written about it here on at least one prior occasion: how do you know if you can trust a review you read on a travel web site? And not just the negative reviews; the problem goes both ways because you really have to assume that proprietors of hotels and restaurants plant phony rave reviews on TripAdvisor and other such web sites. Think about it: If you were the manager of a hotel, and a big bonus depended on hitting a goal of X-number room nights, wouldn’t you try planting some reviews extolling to virtues of your hotel?  Yes … probably. So the problem for us travelers is figuring out which reviews to believe. 
I like to think that I can spot the legitimate reviews. They’re not polished and often there are one or two almost inconsequential criticisms in the mix … a faucet dripped in the bathroom or there was no one at the front desk when you checked in, but everything else was perfect. Of course, why would we think someone writing a fake review wouldn’t think to write it that way!
In the case of the Scottish B&B owners, they want to get the names of the people who said ugly things about their establishment so they can sue them.  And that’s understandable. But TripAdvisor is refusing to reveal the names of the two reviewers in order to protect the privacy of the two individuals, not to mention the probability of inhibiting honest negative reviews in the future.

At any rate, this thorny issue is going to land in court and we can all bet that a lot of people in the travel industry will be extremely interested in the outcome. I’ll report it here, assuming I spot it when the verdict is announced.