We've noticed a recent upswing in the number of local hounds calling people out for shilling (aka astroturfing, posting fake reviews and undisclosed comments on the site), and we wanted to post a note about it.
Shilling is an issue we take very seriously on Chowhound -- we value the honesty of the resource, and we know that maintaining that honesty is what makes the site useful. Our team of moderators actively looks for shilling on the site, as well as thoroughly investigating every report flag and email we get from users about suspicious posts.
When our investigations confirm that a shilling situation exists, we remove the posts in question. If the pattern of shilling behaviour on a given restaurant continues, we're sometimes forced to remove all posts about a restaurant because no conversation about it can be assumed to be honest. It's not a step we take lightly. It's one that we try to avoid ever taking -- we want you all to be able to discuss every restaurant freely. But sometimes we have no choice, or only the fool's choice between having no discussion of a restaurant or a biased, heavily manipulated discussion -- at least with no discussion, we aren't misleading anyone.
But we can't be everywhere and we can't read everything, so we'd like to ask your help in all of this.
If you spot a post that you think is suspicious, don't call them out publicly (not even with the currently popular 'Welcome to Chowhound'). Instead, use 'report' to bring it to our attention. Or, if it's not one post but a pattern of posts you're concerned about, email us at email@example.com to give us the details.
Reporting rather than commenting in a post makes less work for us, and lets us know we should investigate and remove the post, rather than leaving it up. It also prevents arguments over whether something is or isn't a shill. Plus, even if we can't confirm the problem, if we're aware of it, we can continue to track the issue in case we get more information later.
Our thanks to all those who have helped us in the past, and in advance for those who'll help in the future. We're all working together to build this resource for everyone's benefit. It's a pretty amazing thing, and something we want to protect as long as possible. If you value the chow tips you receive and take pride in the ones you give, please help us keep an eye out for those who would make those tips less useful by surrounding them with dishonesty.
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