Online review giants Google and TripAdvisor have disabled reviews in Russia and Ukraine after people used them as a space to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
While Google told CNET it had blocked all new reviews, TripAdvisor told Insider it is only locking reviews on listings where it noticed upticks in people using reviews to talk about the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday last week.
Multiple news outlets reported earlier this week that Russian businesses were being flooded with reviews containing messages about the invasion of Ukraine.
The campaign appeared to be in part spurred on by online hacking group Anonymous, tweeted to the 7.7 million followers of the @youranonnews Twitter account. The tweets recommended that they leave messages about “what is happening in Ukraine” in Google Maps reviews for Russian businesses and restaurants.
One review screenshotted by CNET for a café in Moscow read: “Your government is lying to you about conflict in Ukraine. It’s not a rescue operation and there are no Nazis there!”
“Lots of children and innocent people are dead. Don’t listen to government propaganda,” the review said.
In a televised speech on the first day of Russia’s invasion, President Vladimir Putin said the invasion of Ukraine was justified as a “demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.”
Google’s response to the campaign was to disable new reviews.
A Google spokesperson told CNET in a statement: “Due to a recent increase in contributed content on Google Maps related to the war in Ukraine, we’ve put additional protections in place to monitor and prevent content that violates our policies for Maps, including temporarily blocking new reviews, photos, and videos in the region.”
Google told The Wall Street Journal the review suspension applied to locations in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
CNET reported many reviews left on Russian businesses were later removed by Google. A Google spokesperson told Insider in an email on Wednesday that it had removed user contributions including reviews from Google Maps in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus since the invasion began out of “an abundance of caution.”
A spokesperson for TripAdvisor told Insider the company was not placing a blanket ban on new reviews for Russian or Ukrainian businesses.
“Tripadvisor is closely monitoring all incoming review submissions for businesses located in the affected countries, and we will take steps to apply what we call ‘lockdown notices’ whenever a property receives an influx of review submissions that do not describe first-hand customer experiences,” TripAdvisor’s spokesperson told Insider.
Insider surveyed ten listings for restaurants in Moscow, all of which carried a message from TripAdvisor saying:
“Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing.”
It told users to check back soon if they had a firsthand experience at the property.
Insider also surveyed ten listings for restaurants and bars in Kyiv, none of which carried the same message.
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