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I trust Google Maps reviews implicitly, and it turns out I have AI to thank

Published Feb 13th, 2024 6:32PM EST
Google Maps reviews
Image: Google

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It is a cliché, but eating a bunch of pasta before a long run will help with the carbohydrate load. It’s also a cliché I love since pasta is amazing. I also love traveling, so for my latest race, I found myself in a new city, using Google Maps in the days preceding the event to find a highly-rated Italian restaurant nearby. It didn’t take me more than a few taps to choose one and save it.

Having covered Google Maps safety so much for my day job, I’ve come to trust Google Maps reviews implicitly. I know Google is doing a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the reviews are safe and accurate. And it turns out Google relies on AI more than ever to ensure the safety of Google Maps reviews and business-related information.

Google released an update on all the work it’s doing to keep its Google Maps users safe.  Last year, Google says it received about 20 million daily contributions on Maps and Search. This included updates to business hours, ratings, photos, and videos on top of reviews.

Google needs to ensure all this information is accurate. It employs “a combination of technology and skilled operators” and collaborates with the wider industry to prevent abuse.

Thanks to an upgrade last year, Google’s AI can catch questionable review patterns even faster than before. The new machine learning algorithms look at longer-term signals on a daily basis. 

Things like a reviewer leaving the same review on multiple businesses or the sudden spike of 1-star or 5-star reviews are red flags for the AI. Google says the new AI tool helped take down 45% more fake reviews than a year prior.

The new algorithm also caught an online scam where certain individuals promised to “connect people to high-paying online tasks, like writing fake reviews or clicking ads across the internet,” for a low fee. The algorithm caught the surge in suspicious reviews by looking at an account’s review patterns: 

From there, our team of investigators analyzed reports from merchants who recently saw a spike in fake 5-star reviews, and even worked with people who were contacted by scammers on other platforms. Once we pinpointed patterns, like what categories of businesses were being targeted, we refined our algorithms to help protect hundreds of targeted businesses from the bad actors.

Google Maps October 2023 features: Navigation redesign and AI features.
Google Maps screenshots showing user reviews and information for various businesses. Image source: Google

With the new Google Maps review algorithm in place, Google caught more than five million fake reviews related to the scam. Furthermore, Google placed protections on hundreds of businesses and disabled the malicious accounts that were connected to the scams.

Going through these periodical Google Maps review safety updates from Google, I realize I’ve been taking these features for granted for years, without even thinking of whether AI algorithms or humans are protecting the safety of my Google Maps experiences. So have the hundreds of millions of Google Maps users out there, many of whom might not even be aware of what goes on behind the scenes. 

Google posted more stats about its Google Maps safety efforts last year, putting things in a different perspective. Google Maps would be an entirely different experience without these features in place. Here’s what Google Maps did for users in 2023: 

  • blocked 170 million policy-violating reviews (45% more than in 2022)
  • removed more than 12 million fake business profiles
  • caught 14 million policy-violating videos (7 million more than in 2022)
  • prevented over 2 million attempts to claim Business Profiles of legitimate users (1 million more than in 2022)
  • placed temporary protections for 123,000 businesses 
  • filed a lawsuit against a malicious actor who had been posting fake reviews

As for the Italian restaurant I picked in under five minutes with Google Maps, I ended up going there after the race, not before it as I had planned. But the food and experience were amazing, as the reviews said. I was lucky to get a table without a reservation, and there was a line at the door shortly after I got in.

I wouldn’t have gone there had it not been for a quick look at those Google Maps reviews. The craziest thing about it is that I have no idea what the name of that restaurant is. But I do know how to find it, thanks to Google Maps, if I’m ever in that neighborhood again. 

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.