U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Questions Federal Trade Commission Nominees on TripAdvisor Business Practices

Senator Baldwin called for FTC investigation after TripAdvisor censored online content useful for citizen safety abroad

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin yesterday questioned Federal Trade Commission (FTC) nominees on the business practices of TripAdvisor, an issue she previously brought to the Commission’s attention after it was discovered the travel-rating website was censoring reviews useful for citizens’ safety when abroad.

In light of continued, troubling reports of U.S. citizens falling victim to unethical and criminal activity while traveling in Mexico, including the tragic, alcohol-related death of Wisconsin resident Abbey Conner in January 2017, Senator Baldwin requested the FTC to investigate potentially unlawful business practices of certain entities, including TripAdvisor, that may hinder the ability of Americans to access accurate and unbiased information regarding the safety and quality of their foreign destinations, accommodations and activities. In addition, companies like TripAdvisor generate revenue through click-based advertisements and hotel transactions, creating possible incentives to amplify positive reviews and minimize negative reports, including reviews that may discourage citizens from traveling to specific destinations.

When questioning the FTC nominees, Senator Baldwin raised the issue of TripAdvisor’s reported practice of limiting or removing certain reviews that detailed unsafe conditions, potentially putting future travelers at risk. Senator Baldwin asked each nominee, if confirmed, whether they would commit themselves to looking into this issue and the impacts practices like these have had on consumers. The nominees shared her concerns and agreed to examine the issue.

“Travelers trust travel-rating sites, including TripAdvisor, for accurate and honest reviews, and allegations of censorship are extremely troubling,” said Senator Baldwin. “I have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate so I’m pleased that the nominees share my concerns and committed to look into it. We need to make sure consumers are being well-served and protected.”

In addition, because Senator Baldwin believes that the U.S. State Department’s online travel warnings for Mexico are not sufficient, she has written to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the Department to take a more proactive approach in providing useful information to travelers.