Chinese travel platform Mafengwo, known mainly for its millennial user base of independent travellers, has denied that it uses fake reviews on its site after a social media report accused it of copying review content from competitors and fabricating as much as 85 per cent of reviews on its platform.
In a statement published on its corporate Weibo account on Monday, the company said that reviews of restaurants and eateries made up less than 3 per cent of the user-generated content in the Mafengwo ecosystem, which includes travel itineraries, diary entries and photo-sharing.
“Taking into account our total number of users, the number of accounts posting fake reviews is minuscule and Mafengwo has since removed such accounts,” Mafengwo said in the statement. “The number of [fake] users described in the media report has large discrepancies compared to reality and third-party statistics.”
The report which sparked the furore came from a social media account on WeChat under the name of XiaoShengBiBi, which accused the company of using bots and hiring writers to copy hundreds of thousands of reviews from rivals such as Ctrip, Meituan-Dianping, Agoda and Yelp.
Platforms like Mafengwo and competitors such as travel booking platform Ctrip and restaurant review sites from Meituan-Dianping offer booking and reservation services to users who can also leave reviews of a hotel or restaurant they have been to. In the internet age, consumers often take into account prior reviews before making their choice of what travel experience or restaurant to book, making positive reviews a must-have for merchants to attract customers.
However, the pressure of maintaining multiple, positive write-ups means the industry has seen incidents of fake reviews, and merchants have been banned from e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao and JD.com for engaging in the practice. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
Mafengwo sought to distance itself from merchants who may have engaged in faking reviews, stating that the company removes 26,000 posts each week for violating its terms and conditions, and has to date closed down 15,000 accounts.
“The report took the behaviour of unscrupulous merchants and shifted it to Mafengwo, which is not consistent with reality,” it said in the statement.
Beijing-based Mafengwo raised US$133 million in a series D round of venture capital funding in December 2017, and counts General Atlantic, Temasek Holdings, Hillhouse Capital and Qiming Venture Partners among its investors. It claims to have 100 million monthly active users, over 135,000 user-written travel articles and revenue exceeding 9 billion yuan in 2017.
In August, a Reuters report citing anonymous sources stated that Mafengwo was looking to raise up to US$300 million in a new funding round that could value the firm at between US$2 billion and US$2.5 billion.
This article Chinese travel platform Mafengwo denies faking reviews after social media storm first appeared on South China Morning Post