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Software that spots fake online hotel reviews? Bring it on!

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

How do you know when to trust hotel reviews posted by users on websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp? Maybe you think you can spot a fake, but researchers at Cornell University recently developed a software program that they said can sniff out “opinion spam” better than you can.

Researchers led by a grad student used software to test made-up reviews and real reviews of Chicago hotels, according to this Crave blog post. The reviews also were “judged” by real humans.

“The software got it right about 90% of the time,” the blog says. “This is a big improvement over the average person, who can detect fake reviews only about 50% of the time, according to the researchers.”

The example above is straight from the study: Which review do you think is fake?

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Laptopmag’s report points to the study’s word choices as giveaways. True reviews used words that apply to the hotel experience (“bathroom,” “check-in” and “price”) while made-up critiques used words connected to a pretext for the visit (“my husband,” “business” and “vacation”).

Researchers say the software needs more testing before it’s ready for prime-time, but it could have a big impact on the crowd-sourcing crowd.

Now back to the example: If you picked the review on the right as the fake, you’re as smart as Cornell’s algorithm.

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