San Francisco, CA – Yelp had added warning labels on businesses in their database that have been accused of racist behavior.
Yelp Vice President of Operations Noorie Malik said the online review company has a “zero tolerance policy to racism” and will warn consumers about those who have been flagged by other users, The Washington Post reported.
“Communities have always turned to Yelp in reaction to current events at the local level,” Malik wrote in a post that announced the new anti-racism labeling system. “As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions.”
Yelp said its new system will help consumers to determine whether they’ll be welcome at a particular business, the New York Post reported.
It said it will place a notice on businesses that have been called out for “racist conduct” and will direct users to news articles with more details of the allegations against the business.
While critics have complained the review company is helping to put places out of business, Yelp claimed the warning label was an extension of already-existing efforts by the company to flag businesses that are being sunk under a deluge of nasty reviews from people who have never actually visited that establishment, the New York Post reported.
“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,” the new Yelp warning read.
“While we 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,” the warning continued.
“If you’re here to leave a review based on first-hand experience, please check back at a later date,” the Yelp alert ended.
Yelp told NPR that it had placed more than 450 of the public alerts on the pages of businesses accused of racism between May and September.
“After we’ve seen activity dramatically decrease or stop, we will then clean up the page so that only firsthand consumer experiences are reflected,” a Yelp spokesperson explained.
This isn’t the first time that Yelp has dealt with people trying to impact reviews of businesses they have never even visited, NPR reported.
Yelp said it removed 3,000 reviews in 2019 that were either influenced by celebrities or politically motivated.
Critics immediately pushed back against the move and said that it actually opens the floodgates for false accusations and unfair labeling, the New York Post reported.
“Honest to God I read this tweet without looking at the account and thought it was a parody,” conservative commentator Matt Walsh tweeted when he shared Yelp’s announcement of the racist business warnings.
“But no, it’s real. Yelp is really giving race hoaxers a specific tool to destroy any business they want on a whim,” Walsh concluded.
Republican attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon said Yelp was “weaponizing defamation” and had opened itself up for lawsuits, the New York Post reported.
“This is an inducement to false accusation and thuggery,” right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza tweeted. “What if a bunch of people wantonly accuse @yelp of racism? Will they place a racist alert on their own company?”
In fact, Business Insider reported in September on allegations that Yelp’s Phoenix office itself was a “boys club” atmosphere that included racism, sexism, and a hard-partying culture.
But Yelp wanted businesses accused of racism to know the initial labeling by the review company doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, The Washington Post reported.
Malik said that the team tasked with reviewing racism allegations will consider evidence like “video or photographic evidence or a link to a racist rant on social media.”
And if a business takes the corrective action that Yelp thought it should to address the accusation – firing the employee, for example – the “racist behavior” alert can be turned into a “Public Attention Alert,” according to The Washington Post.