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TripAdvisor says reviews reporting rape were not censored

MARY SCHWALM FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/File

TripAdvisor headquarters in Needham.

Associated Press 

BOSTON — TripAdvisor defended its policies Thursday on reviews that contain allegations of rape or other crimes, in response to a published report that quoted several users who claimed such postings were deleted.

Several people told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they were sexually assaulted at Mexican hotels and resorts, but when they mentioned the crimes in their online reviews, those reviews were taken down.

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One woman said she was raped by a security guard at a Mexican resort, but when she wrote about the attack on TripAdvisor in 2010 to warn other travelers, the post was deleted.

The Needham, Massachusetts, company, which hosts hundreds of millions of user reviews of tourist attractions and businesses around the world, said some reviews were taken down at the time because they were found to be in violation of the company’s ‘‘family friendly’’ policies that required language in reviews to essentially be G-rated.

The company said those polices were relaxed a few years ago to allow reviews that included firsthand accounts of crimes. It reposted the woman’s review last month.

‘‘We believe any firsthand experience should be posted to our site as a means to communicate to other consumers looking for information on where they should travel,’’ the company said in a statement. ‘‘We are horrified that this victim experienced this assault on her vacation in Mexico, and other travelers should be aware of this incident.’’

Another review was reposted after it was rewritten to meet guidelines.

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TripAdvisor does not only post reviews, it also generates revenue when users book trips through its website. But the company denied that negative reviews are deleted because they may hurt the company’s bottom line.

‘‘It is simply untrue to suggest that because we enforce publishing guidelines that we are attempting to sweep these horrific events under the rug to help our hotel partners or advertising partners look better,’’ company spokesman Brian Hoyt said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday.

There are a number of reviews on TripAdvisor that mention crimes, even rapes, Hoyt said. A search found several instances of reviews alleging crimes.

‘‘These instances of assault or theft are important, and we are working to vet these posts in real time to help get information like this published for other travelers to see,’’ he said.

The company is also starting what it calls a ‘‘badge’’ notification system to alert travelers to serious safety, health or discrimination issues at hotels and other businesses based on news reports. The system should be launched before the end of the year, company spokesman Kevin Carter said.