Restaurant listing and food delivery company Zomato has launched a ‘report abuse’ feature for its restaurant partners to fight against malicious user reviews, the company announced in a blog post.

Why?

Zomato said that some bad actors started abusing the platform to their benefit, which led to two major problems – blackmail and bribery, as Zomato likes to call it. It said that some such users were trying to solicit perks like free meals, discounts, or cash in exchange for positive reviews or with the veiled threat of a poor review if the restaurateur refuses – which Zomato calls blackmail. And, some restaurant owners and managers were offering freebies or money in exchange of positive reviews or rating – which it likes to tag as bribery.

How does the feature works

Restaurateurs, who use Zomato for Business app can directly flag any review which they feel is written with malicious intent. When they flag it or report abuse it,  the review will not get immediately moderated, but Zomato will use that data to identify bad users on Zomato over the long term and eventually freeze their profiles and delete their past reviews.

Speaking about its second issue of bribery,  the company said  that before the end of the year, it will take significant steps being towards solving bribery as well.  It will then let users to report instances where restaurants (or the agencies they hire) have offered something for free to solicit a positive review. For such cases, Zomato will put up a ‘shame banner’ on the platform.

Managing user reviews

Since user reviews are Zomato’s USP, the company have been taking steps to refine reviews for good. Last year in June, Zomato had rolled out anti-bias algorithm to weed out biased reviews even retroactively.

Remember Kolakata’s Mocambo restaurant incident, where restaurant refused serving a guest in inappropriate ways. Due to that incident, users flooded the restaurant with reviews – as many as 5000 in a day. At that time, Zomato notified whenever there is an outpouring of negative reviews for a particular restaurant, its anti-spam systems take a pause, and flags the issue to the moderators to have a look at it.

Also, remember Gurgaon’s The Lemp Brewpub Incident in 2013? Where an anonymous blog post (which was later taken down but is still available on Scribd), accused the Lemp Brewpub in Gurgaon of mistreating a group of customers who visited the restaurant for the Sunday brunch on June 9, 2013, and that went viral on Twitter and other social media. Read more, here. After this incident,  Zomato started showing reviews from only approved reviewers, as part of which all new reviewers will have to at least publish 10 reviews and get their profiles approved by Zomato moderators before their reviews becomes publicly visible on the site.