TripAdvisor was accused of taking down tourists' warnings about incidents at resorts in Mexico. TripAdvisor

After a series of deaths and other alleged criminal incidents at luxury resorts in Mexico, tourists are now accusing review website TripAdvisor of removing warnings posted by other users. More than a dozen travelers accused the website of taking down their first-hand accounts of rapes, injuries and blackouts at Mexico resorts, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation revealed Wednesday.

Messages from TripAdvisor to the reviewers cited reasons for taking down the posts, saying they were “determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community" or that they were “off topic” or not “family friendly.” When the Journal Sentinel asked the website to see the posts that were removed, TripAdvisor declined. The Journal Sentinel detailed the accounts of multiple tourists who said their warnings on the website had been taken down.

“It wasn’t hearsay [as TripAdvisor claimed],” said Wendy Avery Swanson, who's post describing how she blacked out from drinking just a small amount of alcohol at a Mexico resort was deleted by the website. “It actually happened to me.”

The Journal Sentinel’s investigation revealed that certain users are allowed by TripAdvisor to delete posts, but it was unclear how the users were selected.

“It’s important that anyone who suspects foul play or illegal activity contact the local authorities rather than use a review platform as their primary way to share their experience,” a spokesperson for the company told the Journal Sentinel in July.

But tourists say reviews others have the potential to save lives by warning others. Trip Advisor told the Journal Sentinel last week it would be implementing a “badge” system to alert viewers about potential health and safety concerns.

"TripAdvisor has always maintained - since our founding - a strict separation between our commerce and content businesses," TripAdvisor said in a statement emailed to International Business Times. "Despite assertations and statements made by a recent USA Today article, there is no tie between commercial relationships with our partners and how our content guidelines are applied to review or forum posts published on the site."

"We apologize to the sexual assault victim, reported on in the article, who had her forum post removed seven years ago on TripAdvisor," the statement continued. "Since 201, when the forum post was removed, our policies and processes have evolved to better provide information like this to other travelers. As a result, when recently brought to our attention, the victim's initial forum post was republished by our staff. A simple internet search will show numerous reviews from travelers over the last several years who wrote about their firsthand experiences that include matters of robbery or theft, assault and rape. We believe any first-hand experience should be posted to our site as a means to communicate to other consumers looking for information on where they should travel."

Deaths and other incidents at luxury Mexico resorts have become high profile in recent months after the January death of 20-year-old Abbey Conner. Conner and her family were vacationing at the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar when she and her brother passed out in waist-deep water after drinking. Her subsequent death was ruled an “accidental drowning,” though her brother adamantly denied that the pair had consumed enough alcohol to knock them out.

Others soon came forward with tragic stories of deaths at similar luxury resorts. A 2017 report issued by Euromonitor International revealed that up to 36 percent of alcohol served in Mexico was illegal. In August, officials in Mexico seized about 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol that may have contributed to the incidents. United States officials also issued a travel warning in July urging anyone going to Mexico to beware of tainted alcohol.

This article was updated to include a statement from TripAdvisor.

Abbey Conner
Abbey Conner died in January within just a day of arriving at a luxury resort in Mexico. Facebook/Abbey Conner