In the past week, hundreds of one-star reviews have flooded the Yelp page for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, describing the establishment as a “shithole.” Similar negative reviews with the expletive have popped up on the Yelp pages for Trump hotels in New York, Las Vegas, Waikiki, Chicago and at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.
The average Yelp ratings for some of these hotels have, in turn, taken a hit. Last week, the average Yelp rating for the Trump International Hotel in Washington was four out of five stars. That score, as of Thursday morning, is down to only two stars.
“Total Shithole!” a reviewer identified as Delton M., from Los Angeles, wrote about the Washington hotel. “TV only played Russia Today & Fox ‘News’. The staff only spoke to white people.”
“The tower is constructed brick by brick by sweaty, burdensome immigrants from s hole countries,” a reviewer wrote about the New York hotel.
“Wow, this resort is a complete sh‑‑thole,” one person wrote about Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. “The management seems to despise anyone who isn’t white. They were particularly nice to the Norwegians and Russians. But any time a person of color entered the building, the staff told them to ‘go back to your sh‑‑hole country’!”
The barrage has created quite the headache for the company, which requires that its users describe firsthand experiences only. But their fakery is pretty obvious: Most of the authors of these reviews make no pretense that they’ve actually stayed at any of these properties.
The movement appears to have begun, as all movements do, on Twitter.
Ryan Fox, co-founder of New Knowledge, a company that tracks the spread of misinformation online, told CNN that some Twitter users were encouraging people to write fake reviews on Trump Yelp pages.
The trashing began shortly after The Washington Post reported that President Trump used a vulgar term during a discussion about immigration in the Oval Office.
The Yelp pages for several of Trump’s hotels now include an alert, telling users that the business “recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news.”
A box with the words “Active Cleanup Alert” now pops up, explaining that the business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team “for content related to media reports.”
“While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business,” the alert reads.
“As a result, your posts to this page may be removed as part of our cleanup process beginning Wednesday, January 17, 2018, but you should feel free to post your thoughts about the recent media coverage for this business on Yelp Talk at any time.”
A Yelp spokeswoman told The Post that such frenzies are “complicated situations that create a dilemma for Yelp.”
“Because we sometimes receive hundreds and even thousands of photos and reviews in response to media attention, the removal process usually begins in the days after the issue is brought to our attention,” Brenae Leary said.
The continuous stream of negative reviews has clearly made this removal process difficult. As of early Thursday morning, the Trump International Hotel in Washington page still had more than 215 reviews mentioning the word “shithole” or “shit hole.”
This is not the first time Yelp has dealt with trolling as a result of news reports. In December of 2016, for example, it went through a similar cleanup process after Trump’s critics began attacking the Trump Grill, in New York, on its Yelp page.
Similar attacks, on a towing company, occurred after a tow-truck driver turned away a Bernie Sanders supporter.
In 2012, after a pizza parlor owner famously hugged President Barack Obama, the viral photograph “ignited an unprecedented social response from voters on both sides of the aisle either posting one-star reviews attacking the owner’s actions or five-star reviews in his defense,” the company’s vice president of corporate communications explained in a 2016 blog post.
“The result was a mishmash of thousands of political viewpoints that buried the actual consumer experiences, including, presumably anyone who might have actually been there and had a good slice of pizza.”
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