Yelp, a California-based company that offers users a platform to review businesses online, announced that they are debuting a new policy that allows customers to report and flag businesses that they believe are racist without evidence.
“Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident,” the company said in a statement.
Today, we’re announcing a new consumer alert to stand against racism. In the last few months, we’ve seen that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions.
— Yelp (@Yelp) October 8, 2020
Now, when a business gains attention for reports of racist conduct, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more. https://t.co/1K2bJ46uM8
— Yelp (@Yelp) October 8, 2020
While Yelp claims that the reviews will be backed up by a new article, the statement released by the company says that the personal experiences described by users will be the guiding force for issuing these alerts.
“We advocate for personal expression and provide a platform that encourages people to share their experience online, but at the same time it’s always been Yelp’s policy that all reviews must be based on actual first-hand consumer experiences with the business. This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform” the statement read.
Yelp did not immediately respond for comment, so it is unclear how the company defines “racist behavior” and what the company will do to filter out false or responses targeting someone for illegitimate or other reasons such as their faith.
The company has an existing policy for flagging businesses accused of being racist based on news reports or social media posts. According to internal research, Yelp says it had a “133% increase in the number of media-fueled incidences on Yelp compared to the same time last year.” The company also announced that it already placed “450 alerts on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“If someone associated with a business is accused of, or the target of, racist behavior, we will place a Public Attention Alert on the business page to warn consumers that the business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention. For businesses accused of overtly racist actions, where we can link to a news article, we will escalate our warning with the Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert,” the company explained.
Users on Twitter pointed out the vulnerabilities of Yelp’s new policy, saying that people could easily falsely accuse a business of being “racist.”
Yelp likes lawsuits. https://t.co/6yHn7HQm3X
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) October 9, 2020
Sounds like a version of China’s social merit/demerit system. Terrible idea.
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) October 9, 2020
Honest to God I read this tweet without looking at the account and thought it was a parody. But no, it's real. Yelp is really giving race hoaxers a specific tool to destroy any business they want on a whim. https://t.co/8G51LQfCQZ
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) October 9, 2020
I'd like to accuse Yelp of racist behavior https://t.co/VvwCMILR5T
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) October 9, 2020