We take tremendous pride in the fact that restaurant owners consider Zomato a trusted partner in their entrepreneurial journey, while our users rely on us as a neutral, bias-free platform. However, as we grew stronger as a platform, and became an important part of our users and restaurant owners lives, some bad actors started abusing the platform to their benefit. This led to an unhealthy cycle of two things – very simply put, we can call them blackmail and bribery.
When users try 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 – that is blackmail.
When restaurant owners/managers proactively reach out to PR agencies or directly to users with large followings on Zomato, and offer them freebies or money in exchange of positive reviews or rating – that is bribery.
These are nascent but growing problems at Zomato, and while our machines and neutrality team do a stupendous job at identifying and mitigating the menace, we decided to create a larger systemic fix for the issue.
Today, we have launched a feature aiming towards solving blackmail as a problem on Zomato. Starting now – restaurateurs can directly flag any review that has been written with malicious intent. When that happens, the review will not get immediately moderated, but we will use that data to identify bad users on Zomato over the long term and eventually freeze their profiles and delete their past reviews.
How it works
Restaurant owners can use Zomato for Business app (download it from iOS App Store or Google Play Store) and use the “Report Abuse” button to directly flag a review that was written with malicious intent. There’s no guarantee that the review will be taken down – but this will help us make the system cleaner and get rid of bad actors over the long term. Our team will also review each reported case along with shared evidence – and if we believe in the evidence, we will moderate the review.
We are hoping that with this feature on our business app, we will be able to identify users with malicious intent very easily.
Having said that, before the end of the year, you will see significant steps being taken towards solving bribery as well (that will be Part 2 of this post). An important part of solving bribery is letting users report instances where restaurants (or the agencies they hire) have offered something for free to soliciting a positive review. In such cases, we will put up a “shame banner” on zomato – which tells our entire user base that this restaurant is not an ethical business to deal with, and you should probably not be eating at this place. Because if someone doesn’t hold themselves to the highest ethical standards on one count, you can’t trust that business to hold themselves to the highest standards on a number of other counts – including serving hygienic food, for example.