Yelp to Label 'Racist' Businesses Online

John Lister's picture

Review site Yelp is to highlight businesses that have been accused of racist behavior. Critics argue the policy is open to malicious abuse.

Yelp says over this summer it has noticed a surge in reviews which warn users of racist behavior. However, it believes many of these may be written by people reporting to social media or news reports of such activity, rather than from their own experience of using a business.

According to Yelp, it needed to change its policy to deal with two issues. The first is that its rules only allow reviews based on first-hand experience. The second is that it believes there's a "clear need" to warn people about businesses that are "associated with egregious, racially-charged actions", the logic being this could affect people's informed decision about whether to spend at that business.

Yelp already labels businesses with a "Public Attention Alert" when it believes it may be getting a suspicious increase in reviews that could be linked to "social activism." Now it says it will add a "Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert" and temporarily block new reviews when it comes across media reports of the alleged racist behavior. (Source:

Reviews Must Be Legit

The alert reads as follows:

"Recently, someone associated with this business was accused of racist behavior, resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page. Racism is reprehensible and has no place on Yelp, and we unequivocally reject racism in any form. Read about the reports of racist behavior here.

"While we understand the desire to warn others about racist behavior associated with a business, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience. We have temporarily disabled the ability to post here as we work to investigate the content.

"If you're here to leave a review based on a first-hand experience with the business, please check back at a later date."

What Happens Next Unclear

Yelp hasn't said what if anything it will do following an investigation, for example if it concludes the reports are credible.

Critics cited by the BBC complained the move would give additional power to people who posted false reviews or made false accusations in the hope of damaging a business. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

How should review sites handle reviews that make such accusations? Has Yelp got the balance right? Should such sites do a better job of verifying that reviewers really are customers?

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Average: 5 (7 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

Good luck proving those Yelp reviews are in fact genuine. Being able to label a business as racist (presumably in hopes of penalizing it financially through lack of funding) will only increase the number of already fake reviews out there.

Amazon is a great example. In the not-so-distant past I would purchase a product based on the number of positive reviews it had. That is no longer the case. Amazon is full of fake reviews that can't be trusted - usually purchased in bulk by the company making the products. You now need to use services like to see if the reviews are in fact legit. Even then, it's not guaranteed.

matt_2058's picture

Amazon is not the only one. Just about every review is compromised. My wife works in the medical field. Guess what the marketing person did? Yep, bulk positive reviews! Part of a 'social media' marketing campaign and advertising. The reviews were an optional package!

I especially don't trust the reviews of the people getting free products. Even if they aren't stellar, as that's marketing too.

David's picture

Sometimes a product lends itself to hilarious fake reviews. Bought a 55 gallon barrel of personal lubricant to use for a slip-n-slide? There's a review out there for you. A quick search brought up this article with some examples:

While the likes of these certainly don't fall into the realm of 'useful reviews', and can be quite funny, they do distort a product's true rating. It would be nice if sellers like Amazon would leave them up while finding a way to exclude them from overall ratings.

buzzallnight's picture

I can't believe yelp even exists,
totally worthless site
a waste of electricity.