Yelp Lifts the Veil on Filter, Drops "Favorite Review"

Changes come in wake of extortion allegations

By Jessica Greene
|  Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010  |  Updated 9:12 AM PDT
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It appears negative reviews got to Yelp.

The San Francisco-based review site has implemented a number of changes in an effort to fight back against allegations that the company was unfairly filtering reviews.

Several small businesses were upset that some of their good reviews had been removed because, Yelp says, an algorithm in the system's computers found them to be suspicious. There were also allegations that the salespeople at Yelp were pushy and told businesses that the bad reviews could be hidden for a price. The allegations led to a class action lawsuit filed in February.

The company responded to the complaints by making major changes. They have added links to take visitors to those once-hidden reviews. Now, users can see both the super-positive reviews and the negative ones all in the same place. Although there's no detail on why each review has been shunned, readers may be able to draw their own conclusions after seeing the hidden content.

Another way the company is trying to appear more transparent is by removing the "favorite review" feature, in which companies can pay to showcase a highly positive review on their front page.

From their official blog

Lifting the veil on our review filter and doing away with "Favorite Review" will make it even clearer that displayed reviews on Yelp are completely independent of advertising -- or any sort of manipulation. We also hope it will demonstrate the importance of a safeguard such as our filter and the unique challenge we face daily to maintain the integrity of the review content on our site.

Yelp CEO and co-founder Jeremy Stoppleman told Mashable that one of the goals of the changes was to make it so "even if you’re not familiar with Yelp, you have a good chance of figuring out what’s going on and why [when you land on a business page]."

Stoppelman said Monday that the company wants to make people understand that Yelp does give all businesses fair treatment, despite allegations that advertisers are favored.

"You'll be able to dive into the content yourself and make your own judgment," he told the Associated Press.

At least three lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed against the site by a dozen small companies alleging that reviews are manipulated depending on whether a company advertises on the site. The businesses claim they've been pressured to advertise on the site in exchange for getting negative reviews squashed.

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