Yelp announced plans to flag businesses accused of racism after data showed an increase in reported incidents.
The review website announced its intentions in a blog post shared on its website Thursday, Oct. 8. In the article, Yelp admitted there had been a 617 percent increase in reviews that mentioned Black-owned businesses. However, there was downside to this rise in activity, which prompted Yelp to act.
“While searches for Black-owned businesses surged on Yelp, so did the volume of reviews warning users of racist behavior at businesses,” the blog post stated. “Today, in response to this, we will now place a distinct Consumer Alert on business pages to caution people about businesses that may be associated with overtly racist actions.”
The alert will be enacted when Yelp notices an “unusual spike in activity” on a business’s review page. The targeted page will be disabled until the site administrators determine the source of the increased activity. The consumer alert has two tiers: Public Attention Alert and Business Accused of Racist Behavior alert. The former will serve as a default flag to let visitors know “if someone associated with the business was accused of, or the target of, racist behavior.”
The alert escalates to the second level when Yelp determines “there’s resounding evidence of egregious, racist actions from a business owner or employee, such as using overtly racist slurs or symbols,” per the blog post. A Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert will be accompanied by a link to an article “from a credible media outlet.”
There have been several high-profile examples of businesses being targeted by angry Yelp reviews after racism accusations. Many of the reviews are from people who are mad about the accusations rather than people who experienced mistreatment first-hand at the business. Typically, site administrators temporarily disable reviews until the drama blows over. Yelp hopes the new alert system will eliminate this issue.
“This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform,” the blog post read. “We don’t allow people to leave reviews based on media reports because it can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating.”