Astroturfing regulation is in its infancy — and it suffers from lack of clarity, especially if a government can penalize a company such as TripAdvisor for allowing unfavorable reviews. Self-regulation by those who have unfavorable reviews posted does not make sense. However, self-regulation by sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp could be a solution.
We see it all the time: a glowing 5-star comment on Yelp about our favorite neighborhood restaurant. At first glance, it looks authentic. However, what if the review actually were purchased by the restaurant? Would that change your perspective on the review or the restaurant?
Of course, paying for advertising is hardly new. Celebrities for years have endorsed products and restaurants. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission issued Endorsement Guides that require websites, bloggers and businesses to disclose endorsers, and require that the endorsements be truthful and not misleading.