Yelp tries public shaming to discourage businesses from gaming reviews and ratings

yelp consumer warning

Yelp has become critical to local business’ success. Patrons consider the number of stars a vendor receives as well as user reviews on Yelp a great — and legitimate — source of first-hand feedback. Over the years, the platform has become a standard for judging the quality of services, and accordingly, small businesses have inevitably found ways to game the system and rack up the positive reviews. Now, Yelp is taking measures to crack down on companies that are resorting to these illicit tactics.

“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,” Eric Singley Yelp VP of Product says.

It’s incredibly easy to find sources for faked reviews — a quick Craigslist scan reveals as much. Other more elaborate schemes involve entire businesses that are contracted by small businesses to improve visibility and ratings on the site. Such contracted organizations will use gray or black hat techniques including publishing false reviews and slandering competing businesses — the result of this being that the entire Yelp review system’s reliability is degraded. 

But Yelp will start taking an unconventional approach by publicly shaming businesses through a pop-up that warns consumers of the vendors’ less-than-legitimate actions. Businesses that Yelp is certain are gaming the system will be flagged starting today, and the platform revealed that the feature is launching with nine businesses that “will have the consumer alert message posted on their profile page.” The alert will appear for a period of 90 days and be removed thereafter unless the business in question doesn’t quit its scammy ways.

Yelp reviews’ controversial history has even led to a class action lawsuit against the company for allegedly extorting businesses to place ads on its site to surface their positive reviews. These issues have also kindled interest by researchers to detect false reviews using statistics and algorithms. Last year Cornell researchers developed a computer algorithm that in field trials was 90 percent accurate in detecting false reviews. And in June, researchers from the State University of New York, Stony Brook devised a statistical technique that spotted businesses with false reviews by comparing the statistical distribution of reviews. That method was said to work with 72 percent accuracy.

Review scammers are clever and their efforts are becoming more and more sophisticated as outlets try to fight them. Yelp claims to be ahead of the game compared to competitors, and the site will soon begin identifying businesses with a “large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address.”

Yelp assures users and businesses that play by the rules that, “we are not going to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.”

Product Review

Anthem shows a glimmer of brilliance that's quickly dampened by its grind

Anthem is an online shooter from BioWare that’s already proven to have a stunning open-world with action-packed combat that distinguishes itself with its story, characters, and lore. But will it continue to invest in those things as we…
Movies & TV

An Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series might be headed to Disney Plus

Disney is bringing the full weight of its massive content library to its own streaming service in 2019. How will Disney Plus compare to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Here's what we know so far.
Movies & TV

Amazon's Lord of the Rings series gets an interactive map of Middle-earth

Amazon Studios is betting big on its Lord of the Rings prequel series, which has a multiseason commitment and a budget of more than $1 billion. The series' first season will arrive by 2021.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.