Are Reviews Real?

With the advent of Trump-Mania, we hear every day that the media are presenting us with so-called 'fake news'. I must say, I often scoff at articles which present only half the facts when you know that there is more to a story than meets the eye.

I have just finished reading a fascinating article about the #1 restaurant in London on Trip Advisor - And it's completely fake. The concept was dreamed up by a guy called Oobah Butler who was a paid reviewer for places in Trip Advisor. He would charge restaurants £10 to review their restaurants and eventually decided to try something a little bolder so created a completely fabricated restaurant called The Shed which became the #1 rated restaurant in London without ever having a single customer. Pretty clever huh?

This leads me to the question of reviews. These days the internet is our prime source of information. No more so than when travelling overseas or out of town looking for somewhere to eat. Last week I was in Hong Kong and the most obvious place to look for restaurant reviews in a foreign city is Trip Advisor. The problem I found was that no matter where you looked, there were reviews rating 5 star, 5 star, 5 star.... and then a 1 or 2 star from a person stating they'd actually been there and the place was terrible. Which led me to question the honesty of these reviews so I went one step further and clicked through to one of the reviewers bio. At that point the alarm bells started ringing. This person was reportedly from New York City but had no previous reviews in New York City and single city reviews from all around the world. Who ever goes to a foreign city for one night? I guess that when you are one of thousands of restaurants in a cosmopolitan city, you have to stand out from the rest and can't afford to be restaurant #5,497 of 6,000 restaurants.

So what's real and what's fake? Who can tell these days? Spam emails leak through everyday with supposedly 'real' messages. Someone makes an observation on Twitter and it get's re-worded and 'leaked'. Reviews are paid for. News articles are regurgitated with facts missing....

The main message here is that it's important to encourage our internet-savvy children to question what they read on the internet and not take every article at face value. We are a generation which has grown up with Encyclopedia Britannica and the National Geographic in hard copy. Articles were written once and printed, not regurgitated a thousand times with a hundred different versions. We need to be smart and question the source of the information.