Confronted with a petition started by a sexual assault survivor that was signed by nearly 700,000 people, TripAdvisor took additional steps in the last couple of days to protect such victims and to promote traveler safety.

Only three weeks ago, prompted by an earlier article in British newspaper The Guardian, TripAdvisor introduced a safety review filter to highlight user reviews citing sexual assaults and other violence. It also implemented a traveler safety notice within hotel listings that generated such concerns. A day later, protesters showed up outside TripAdvisor’s New York City offices, citing the inadequacy of TripAdvisors steps.

But in response to the Change.org petition, and after a series of discussions with both Change.org and the victim, “K,” TripAdvisor Wednesday took a series of new steps and pledged to make additional reforms.

Among them:

  • TripAdvisor acknowledged to the victim that its response time to sexual assault victims like her needs improvement, and that the leadership of both its content moderation and customer support organizations will get sexual assault survivor awareness training from NoMore.
  • TripAdvisor posted Tips for Maintaining Anonymity on TripAdvisor in its help center, and pledged to translate these guidelines into 28 languages within several days.
  • TripAdvisor promised that its support team will help anyone who phones or emails to create an anonymous profile.

“K” had reportedly been raped by a tour guide in her hotel room in Ethiopia despite the fact that the guide had “stellar” reviews on TripAdvisor. She had written a review to alert other travelers about the incident, but it never got published because it wasn’t written in the first person.

After TripAdvisor implemented the safety notifications on its website following the Guardian expose, K felt that the remedial steps weren’t sufficient, and that the world’s largest travel website should set up a hotline, and ensure that victims weren’t at risk of being re-traumatized when posting user reviews about these crimes.

TripAdvisor still hasn’t established a hotline, and it won’t delete the listings of hotels or restaurants that have reviews detailing allegations of sexual assaults or other violent incidents.

Molly Dorozenski, senior campaigns director at Change.org, said of the group’s dialogue with TripAdvisor public policy and corporate communications personnel in the last few weeks that “it was a struggle, but I always thought they were sympathetic. I got the impression that they really cared although we didn’t agree on the particulars.”

In a response Thursday to the petition published on Change.org, TripAdvisor stated in part that “we greatly value the feedback we have received from the Change.org petitioners,” and that “we feel it is our responsibility to ensure our community has access to important safety information that empowers them to keep traveling.”

TripAdvisor stated that it is “deeply committed to making traveler safety a company priority,” and that it will continue to implement safety measures.

In its own statement, Change.org quoted K as saying: “I am thrilled that TripAdvisor heard our voices and made these changes to their platform. The 693,000 signatures on this petition showed TripAdvisor that people were invested in a better, safer version of their site. Now TripAdvisor is helping to give people the information and freedom they deserve to travel the world without taking unnecessary risks.”

And Change.org senior campaigner Alex Rapson said: “This is an incredible moment for the people who stood with K to make travel safer for everyone. We’re more powerful when we advocate together.”

In the interim, K is said to be planning on writing a TripAdvisor review about her ordeal.

It remains to be seen, too, how other sites hosting user reviews, including Expedia, Google, Booking.com, Yelp and OpenTable, will handle the issue.

Photo Credit: Change.orgpProtesters gathered outside TripAdvisor's New York City offices on May 15. In the interim, Tripadvisor has taken additional steps to promote traveler safety. Change.org