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Yelp to shame cheaters

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/tec...

They set up a sting op and are going to shame the businesses that got caught trying to manipulate results by soliciting good reviews. Where soliciting = paying for, not merely requesting.

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    1. This decision to shame business owners doesn't make me happy. Why not deal with the owner offline and if actual sham reviews are posted, remove them. Why try to ruin a business? Why get into this type of feud with your online community. It will reflect badly on the entire perception of the site, not just the bad apples.

      Not a fan of this decision no matter how awful bogus reviews are.

      16 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        Because shaming them serves as a deterrence.

        Simply removing the post does not discourage the same owner from trying it again.

        Users and the online community of Yelp need to have confidence in the platform. Being draconian with sham posts builds that confidence.

        It's like rogue posters on Chowhound. Removing the posts isn't enough ... they get banned.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Yelp and Chowhound don't operate the same way, ips.

          Most notably, owners can comment to reviewers on Yelp and their remarks are posted for all to read. Secondly, having info removed from Yelp takes an act of god. So, information that harms more than helps remains up on Yelp. You can't reach customer service easily at Yelp. Yelp exists for the benefit of members at the expense of owners, imvho. If Yelp is going to shame business owners-it should have the same practice for posters. Badge of honor, 1-star braggers exist all over that site. Folks who need to get a life.

          So, to take a stand on "cheaters" - folks posting bogus reviews or reviews that lean too postively on a business and $$$ has been paid for writing a good review...well, I'd like to see the process behind the site actually handling the P.I. detail. Has Yelp gone into the private dick biz, seen $$ exchange hands?

          I find the practice questionable and the motivation hype.

          And, fwiw, I'm not surprised you & I don't agree. So it goes..

          1. re: HillJ

            Yelp does not exist for its members -- it's exists, like almost every commercial site on the web -- to sell advertising. Although the members drive traffic to the site, the owners are the ones who are paying to have their businesses featured ("sponsored listings"). Thus, Yelp has a vested interest in demonstrating to the owners who are paying for preferential treatment that their investment is not being diminished by other businesses who are simply paying the reviewers for good reviews.

            Furthermore, the stories about Yelp shaking down business owners by offering to manipulate the order of reviews are too pervasive to be discounted. Yelp, basically, is making sure that it's the one that decides whose listings get posted.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I disliked Yelp before this craptastical debate.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            Also interesting...I didn't see a food business/restaurant listed in the article.

            And this final line in the article sums it up for me:
            “What’s to stop someone from going and soliciting fake positive reviews for a competitor’s restaurant, in order for them to be publicly shamed?”

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Confidence in the platform? You mean the platform in which if a business pays Yelp a monthly fee, their reviews get moved up to more favorable viewing? And have negative reviews majikly removed?

              This seems like a total deflection on Yelp's part in which they're avoiding that big-ass elephant in the room. Themselves.

            2. re: HillJ

              I have absolutely no problem with this, since the posting of bogus posts is in fact FRAUD.

              1. re: cacruden

                What do you call posters who lie because they believe hostile posting is a sport? Maybe Yelp needs to clean up its too open policy and take responsibility for being asleep at the moderation wheel...but I'd want to know alot more detail before accepting one article as the end all answer to this long standing challenge.

                1. re: HillJ

                  It is different.... Potentially libel and if I were that company I would look to get a Jane/Doe warrant to try and find out who that person was if I could prove it as such (if I thought it was a repeated and malicious attack on the business). I would also consider grouping in Yelp in the lawsuit if I could prove the comments were libel and the company did not remove the comments in a timely manner.

                  A business that posts false posts encourage people to do business with them is fraud (exchange of money).

                  The difference between the two is that in America (as opposed to here) Libel is is a civil offense only, while fraud is criminal.

                2. re: cacruden

                  What do you call posters who are less than truthful? On Yelp, those posts remain up..and who's investigating the legit-nature of negative posting?

                  1. re: cacruden

                    cacruden, I'm sorry I don't agree with the practice as written in the article. Armchair quarterbacking the law, isn't funny.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Yelp is trying to protect themselves.... I believe TripAdvisor (or another equivalent) is currently under investigation by the Justice Department because of failure to do something about posts that were proven to be false. But having to deal with these issues requires more people, and costs more money for the business. In fact these posts can damage companies like Yelp. If Yelp has proof that a business is committing fraud, then why not act as a consumer protection agency? They of course run the risk if they falsely accuse a company and are in turn slow to react, so there is a tradeoff. Personally, if a company has committed fraud and it is proven - then I whole heartedly support outing them.

                      1. re: cacruden

                        I hear you. I'm not familiar with TripAd firsthand at all so I can't comment there. But, first and foremost would you agree Yelp should decide its position FIRST. Does Yelp want to become a watchdog? Does Yelp wish to spend time in court? I tend to believe that some area of their format has gotten into hot water and they are going after the first and easiest target-business owners. Could you imagine Yelp posters being summoned to court? The sheer volume of anonymous posters having to come forward and reveal they are telling the truth...

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Posters (not sure if Yelp posters) have been summoned to court before for libel. And yes (like Yelp) have to spend a considerable amount of time in court already (some companies are very protective of their image), but at least that is better than here where they could be in jail for failure to remove posts that are libel.

                          What I have read is that Yelp is only doing this for companies that they have proof conspired to commit fraud. Others where there is no proof of conspiracy will likely just see posts removed quietly. It is better than seeing the business damaged to the point where people have no confidence in your website reviews.

                          1. re: cacruden

                            I'm not personally aware of any Yelp online posters being summoned to court. I'll be interested enough to keep reading. If this news article sets litigation of this nature in motion the media will be filled with stories.

                            Certainly online nonsense that harms has wound up in the courts.

                            My main point is the notion of shaming cheaters (the articles wording) of the business kind is a two way street...I'd tread lightly.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I have no doubt they will tread lightly - they indicate that they will out proven cheaters.... (i.e. copy of email) so I am sure their counsel has advised them.