Yelp Launches Index to Combat Deceptive Reviews

Yelp Launches Index to Combat Deceptive Reviews

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With fraudulent reviews on the rise, Yelp is making a change.

Since 2012, Yelp has placed more than 4,900 Compensated Activity Alerts and Suspicious Activity Alerts, but for consumers, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to tell which businesses are bad actors on the platform. Now, in an effort to combat the issue, Yelp is publishing an index of Consumer Alerts recipients that lists the Yelp pages where suspicious or deceptive review activity has been detected. 

Consumers can find the index on Yelp’s Trust & Safety website.

“Since 2012, Yelp has been placing Consumer Alerts on business pages to warn consumers when we find evidence of extreme attempts to manipulate a business’s ratings and reviews,” says ​Noorie Malik, Yelp’s vice president of user operations. “We’ve also provided leads to regulators and other sites about deceptive review conduct we have uncovered over the years.”

Malik says publishing the latest Compensated Activity Alerts and Suspicious Review Activity Alerts in a more centralized location should make it easier for Yelp to share suspicious review activity with consumers. 

“This type of transparency is important to consumers, as people are relying on reviews now more than ever to inform their purchases,” Malik says.

The index will become an ongoing resource for both consumers and regulators. But deciding which pages should be publicly listed was no easy task. 

Thousands of businesses are flagged or accused of soliciting reviews or posting fake reviews each day. For the purpose of this new index, Yelp decided to keep it straightforward. The index of Consumer Alerts recipients specifically includes all businesses that have been caught offering payment in the form of cash, discounts, gift certificates or other incentives in exchange for writing, changing, preventing or removing reviews. It also includes businesses that receive Suspicious Review Activity Alerts warnings that Yelp has detected a large number of positive reviews coming from a single IP address, or reviews from users who may be connected to a group that coordinates incentivized reviews.

Consumers Push for Authenticity

Today’s update comes as Yelp is releasing the results of its latest consumer poll, which show that Americans want to know if the reviews they’re using to inform their purchasing decisions are being incentivized. 

According to Yelp’s survey, 85% of consumers want online review sites to tell them if they have reason to believe a business has ever received incentivized reviews, and 68% would no longer visit a business if they learned a business received incentivized reviews.

The majority of consumers don’t trust solicited reviews, and they don’t want to be asked to leave a review. Sixty-five percent of Americans who read online reviews say they would “write a more positive review than originally intended if a business asked them to leave a review,” and 61% admit they would provide a better star rating. 

The release of Yelp’s index of Consumer Alerts recipients also comes as the Federal Trade Commission and other governing bodies consider new rules to create civil penalties for fake reviews and testimonials. If passed, the FTC’s new rule would prevent businesses from being able to write or sell reviews by someone who doesn’t exist, didn’t experience the product or service, or misrepresented their experiences. Businesses wouldn’t be able to compensate or provide other incentives for writing consumer reviews, whether positive or negative.

In interviews, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine has said new rules on fake reviews would “help level the playing field for honest companies” and show that the FTC is “using all available means” to prevent deceptive advertising online.”

Yelp’s new index of current Compensated and Suspicious Review Activity Alert recipients can be viewed on the company’s Trust & Safety website.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.