Trust is broken.
It’s plain to see what declining trust in news media, public bodies, brands and each other is doing to our societies. Societal upheaval is happening in front of our eyes and one place that needs fixing (though certainly not the only one) is the Internet.
The Internet is supposed to be a platform for progress, bringing us closer together and unlocking collaboration and positive change. And it is. But it has also become a tool for dividing us and destroying trust and our relationships, too.
Rediscovering that lost trust in all its guises is a defining issue of our times.
As the builders of technology, and particularly ‘social’ technology that amplifies voices and viewpoints, we have to own the challenges within our realm - not duck it - which means being more proactive in protecting and promoting trust.
Consumer reviews could become the next victim of the forces of distrust that have plagued other parts of the Internet. If we allow censorship, manipulation and fakes to stifle authentic consumer voices and cloud the truth, trust could be crushed. As reviews are the second most trusted source of consumer information (after family and friends and well ahead of advertising) that would be a huge price to pay.
It’s not inevitable, however.
I founded Trustpilot in 2007 to enable companies and consumers to earn trust together. How? By sharing and responding to honest feedback in a transparent public space that’s free and open to all with nothing censored or hidden. More than 90 million reviews of 400,000 sites and companies later, that’s still our guiding light.
Where the inverse is true and consumers are carefully pre-selected to share their experience and the best of those experiences selectively published - as happens today in many feedback platforms - trust erodes over time, alienating consumers and businesses alike.
As with all forms of free speech, there must be guardrails. Illegal, obscene, fake or scam shouldn’t be allowed and, in fact, must be actively weeded out. This is an area where every review site can and must do better, including us.
I also recognise that as the threat of deception has risen, the tools for holding abusers to account - whether it’s small infringements or systemic cheating - need to improve too. I fully accept and own that challenge.
Perhaps the most powerful yet simple tool in our armoury is this: to shine a brighter light on review abuse through greater transparency about how all users behave on our platform. This is where we can and will do much more.
So I’m committing to making seven fundamental changes to the Trustpilot platform starting now until Christmas. This is my Trust Promise.
- We’re keeping ‘flagged’ reviews online
Any company or consumer can flag a review they believe to be fake or breaks our platform rules. Going forward those reviews will remain online while we investigate. Consumers have told us they can feel censored otherwise. Illegal content will be the only exception.
- We’re not sharing reviews of companies that breach our guidelines with search engines
That means the Trustpilot stars will no longer appear in search engine results for companies who have had an alert put on their page.
- We’re pioneering a new ‘fraud fingerprint’
New cutting edge technologies will enhance our ability to pinpoint the source of fake reviews, reviewers and scams.
- We’re strengthening our ‘consumer alert’ system
When we catch a company trying to game the system, we’ll let consumers know via a clearer and faster system of public alerts.
- We’re doubling our Content Integrity and Data Science teams
We use advanced technology built by skilled data scientists to weed out fakes and abuse. We supplement that with highly trained content integrity agents and fraud investigators. We’re doubling the people and investment in these areas.
- We’re adding even more transparency to company pages
On top of the extensive data we already share, we’re adding new data points to help consumers see exactly how every company invites reviews and uses our platform.
- We’ll no longer allow review incentives
Despite most companies using incentives in the right way to get more feedback, there’s growing concern that any incentive could sway sentiment in a more positive direction.
This is not an exhaustive list. Earning trust and keeping abusers at bay is a permanent task. In the past year alone, for example, we’ve removed millions of fake reviews, put a public consumer warning on 489 company profiles and led the world by showing how every company invites and flags reviews. But we need to do more - and that’s the promise I’m making today.
Peter Holten Mühlmann, Founder & CEO