Yelp makes changes to its reviews amid controversy
Yelp announced on Monday that it has changed its review policies and advertising techniques as criticism over its handling of user reviews continues to pile up.
In an attempt to increase the transparency of its service, Yelp said that users will now be able to see reviews of establishments that its filter algorithm removed from the site for potentially being fake or unfair. Previously, filtered reviews were permanently removed from the site unless their legitimacy could be determined.
Yelp has also decided to remove its "Favorite Review" feature. Yelp's Favorite Review was part of the company's advertising package. It displayed the top review of a respective advertiser's establishment, giving it preferential treatment over other, less-glowing reviews. Yelp removed the feature out of fear that users believed advertisers themselves were controlling content on the site.
Yelp has been facing increased criticism over the last few months over allegations that its sales team has offered potential advertisers the ability to have negative reviews of their establishments removed from the site. It has also been charged with penalizing companies that don't advertise on Yelp.
In February, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Yelp, accusing the company of an "extortion scheme" for allegedly asking companies to enter into advertising contracts to remove negative reviews on the site.
For its part, Yelp has consistently denied the claims made against it. The company has even added a page to its site attempting to dispel "myths." The company's chief executive, Jeremy Stoppleman, wrote in a blog post after the lawsuit was filed that his company has never punished non-advertisers or attempted to give advertisers an edge.
"We know this lawsuit to be without merit, we will fight it vigorously, and we are confident we will prevail," Stoppleman wrote.
Whether or not Yelp will prevail remains to be seen. But as its most recent efforts have shown, the company is taking the claims against it seriously. Now it needs to hope that its users respond favorably to those changes.
-- Don Reisinger (Follow me on Twitter @donreisinger)
Image: Yelp's new filtered-review page. Credit: Yelp