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Yelp to alert users on 'shady' business reviews

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Yelp, the local search and reviews service, has taken further steps to tackle the "shady" practices of businesses buying fake or misleading reviews on the site.

The company said it will now alert its 70 million+ users if it suspects that a business page has received rogue reviews posted for a fee, rather than genuinely listed by a customer.

Yelp to alert users on 'shady' business reviews

© Yelp



In a blog post today (October 18), Yelp said that "the allure of a page full of five-star reviews can turn even the most ethical business owner starry-eyed and persuade some to attempt to game the system by paying for reviews".

While San Francisco-based Yelp already filters suspected fake reviews, adding the alerts of potential "shady practices" to pages will further increase security.

Once placed, the warnings will remain on the business' page for 90 days, but if Yelp suspects more fake reviews have been posted in that time, it will extend the notice.

Customers can click on the alert to see more details on the misleading reviews, including screenshots.

Initially, nine businesses have had consumer alert messages posted on their profile page, which is a pretty modest start, but Yelp said that more will be imposed on an "ongoing basis".

"Why are we doing this? We want to make sure consumers are making informed decisions," said Yelp.

"Yelp's automated review filter is working around the clock to flag these types of biased reviews, and we believe that you deserve the right to know when this type of activity is taking place behind the scenes."

After previous criticism, Yelp claims that it is now having success in tackling fake reviews. It pointed to an independent Businessweek report on a Texan business owner who purchased 200 online reviews "in an attempt to artificially bolster his business's online reputation".

The report claimed that Yelp's review filter returned "impressive results", catching every purchase compared to other reviews sites, where they remained online.

Yelp feels that the next step is to inform consumers when it feels that a business has had a large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address, which "can be a helpful indicator that they lack authenticity".

"While the review filter already takes this type of information into account, we believe that consumers also have a right to know if this activity is going on," Yelp said.

"To help put this in perspective, the large majority of businesses on Yelp play by the rules and work tirelessly to provide the best customer service and products to their clients. We salute their efforts and entrepreneurship.

"They inspire us to work even harder to protect the site from faux reviews, so that they have a fair opportunity to bask in the glow of their shining stars. Rest assured we are not going to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch."

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