TripAdvisor has removed hundreds of positive reviews for a Halifax restaurant, causing it to crash from being the number one business in the area to near bottom, amid suspicion that many of the reviews were fake.
The owner of Ziggy's Spice House in the West Yorkshire town, Ziggy Hussain, was said to be furious following the move, which saw it drop in the TripAdvisor rankings to 122nd out of 135 restaurants in the local area.
Hussain maintains he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing and wants his reputation restored, after the ratings website said its fraud detection systems indicated "suspicious activity" in relation to Ziggy's Spice House.
Now he has engaged reputation management firm KwikChex to help defend his business, and has also claimed that TripAdvisor had done nothing to take down suspicious negative reviews he reported.
The site has also refused to reveal to Hussain how it had determined that positive reviews for his business were suspicious for fear of compromising the site's fraud detection system.
KwikChex has now asked TripAdvisor to allow an independent IT expert to examine the evidence they have and assess whether the actions are justified, under a Non-Disclosure Agreement if necessary.
In response to the claims by KwikChex, a spokesman for TripAdvisor said: "Nothing is more important to us than the authenticity of our reviews. We have a world-class international team of specialists who constantly monitor the content on the site, making sure our reviews are real and meet our guidelines.
"TripAdvisor has been monitoring tens of millions of reviews submitted over the past decade, and as a result, we can identify patterns of suspicious activity by utilising sophisticated filters and behavioural modelling to scan reviews. By example, we monitor and evaluate hundreds of different attributes associated with electronic correspondence, such as IP address, the type of browser being used and even screen resolution of the reviewer's device.
"In the case of Ziggy's Spice House, the team found a large number of suspicious votes and reviews and those have been removed from the site. The removal of these reviews was based upon patterns of suspicious activity unearthed by a number of different filters on our systems that there were then verified through further investigation by the team. As such, we are confident that the cause for review removal is justified.
"In line with our standard protocol, and following continued dialogue with the owner about compliance with our guidelines and policies, as well as removing the reviews in question from the site, we also reduced the restaurant's ranking in the Popularity Index for a period of time. We continue to welcome the opportunity to assist the business with the issue to avoid being penalized in the future, where appropriate."