Tabelog, Japan’s Yelp Reportedly Tainted By Undercover Positive Review Agents

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A popular consumer restaurant review site Tabelog [J], who has been competing the top position of restaurant listing site against Gurunavi with user-generating-contents power, admitted on January 4 that there were reviews and ranking manipulations on Tabelog, by third party agents who sell a package like planted favorable comment posting and voting for rank-up, according to 47 News., Japan’s big price comparison service who runs Tabelog, said that they confirmed the agents existence in January 2011, a year ago, and posted an alert on the Tabelog’s site policy page. Kakaku said that they identified 39 agents at now, and are thinking to take legal actions to stop them.
The number of Tabelog’s monthly visitors is 32 million, and how many stars (out of 5) restaurants have on it now affect how much they attract guests.
Sankei reported that Consumer Agency started collecting information [J], and 60 restaurants union of monja-yaki(Eastern Japanese style pancake) in Tsukijima, Tokyo, investigated and found at least two of their members paid an agent to manipulate the online reputation on Tabelog [J].
Nippon TV broadcasting network(NTV) reported this news at night news on 5, which aired (via @kansaitakako [J]) that a certain restaurant told it that it paid 1,000 yen per day if it was ranked within top 5, 500 yen if 6th to 10th. TV-Asahi and other channels also reported.
Back in November, a Turkish restaurant Topkapi in Aoyama, Tokyo, got attention by net users by writing complains on a shop owners page on Tabelog, which claimed that Tabelog’s agent pitched them to buy such review manipulation plan. Tabelog warned Topkapi that the “official 49 agents” must not do such dirty work and at the end deleted the text. For net-savvy, it is not so strange that open internet sites can be manipulated, but as newspaper and TV’s report this incident, regular people are expressing their surprise, which show how they depended on the site.

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47 News interviewed an agent (video) [J]

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