updated 10:45 pm EDT, Wed May 22, 2013
Yelp points to Google search, lawsuit, auditor's results to deny claims
Crowdsourced review service Yelp has come under attack again over reports of business owners complaints that reviews are "too self-centered and not trustworthy" and that the company hides reviews to its own benefit. A blog post by Yelp's Vice President of Communications Vince Sollitto refutes the claims which have been reported to the media, and hopes to clear up the service's reputation.
A Los Angeles Times article points out a case where a tutoring firm wasn't going to advertise on Yelp based on a single one-star review. According to the article "The salesperson claimed she couldn't do anything directly, but would let the relevant department know. Suddenly, the negative review was gone and some positive reviews got through." Despite the report's claim, there is no chain of evidence pointing to manipulation of the system by the sales agent, but the appearance of impropriety is clear.
Sollitto points out that third party research has "debunked the conspiracy" connecting advertising and automated filtering. He says that the misbelief of bias "stems from Yelp's efforts to protect consumers from those who are constantly trying to game the system. Yelp uses automated software to showcase the most helpful and reliable reviews from among the millions submitted. Those that don't make the grade -- about 20 percent -- are posted to a separate "Filtered Review" page. So, in trying to prevent unethical wrongdoing on Yelp, Yelp gets accused of the same."
Yelp's blog post attempts to turn the tables on the journalists pointing out business' first-hand reports. Sollitto says that "Presumably, those reporters in the stories mentioned earlier were seeking to give a voice to the small business owner as the 'little guy,' but in the process seem to have forgotten about another 'little guy': the consumer who is looking for honest assessments of local businesses and not the misdirection of deceptive or biased reviews."