Yelp is a powerful platform.

Typically, when we want to visit a new restaurant, store, or any other unfamiliar business, we turn to Yelp as we read reviews on previous customers’ experiences. Notably, businesses with good reviews attract many new customers while those with bad reviews repel consumers from a business’s services. Because customer satisfaction is essential to the success of any business, Yelp holds great economic power.

However, many Yelp users tend to illegimatize the site by utilizing it as a platform to lash out their emotions into an exaggerated review that may negatively affect an innocent business.

Though fabricated reviews pose a problem to the website, Yelp is adding a new policy that may further this problem by adding an alert on a business’s page if they are associated with racist behaviors. 

2020 has brought lots of attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, inspiring Yelp to take action in eliminating systemic racism. As part of their mission to end racism, Yelp partnered with ‘My Black Receipt’ to launch a black-owned business attribute encouraging consumers to spend $5 million at black-owned businesses from Juneteenth to Independence Day. Yelp also joined the ’15 Percent Pledge’ that urges major retailers to commit 15% of their shelves to black-owned businesses. After these initiatives increased the amount of Yelp reviews on black-owned businesses by 617%, Yelp decided to take their fight against racism one step further with their new policy warning consumers of a business’ racist activities.

Why Are People Upset?

Yelp may be making progress in the social justice realm, but many are apprehensive of the possible effects on the economy. Because negative reviews steer customers away from a particular business, people are worried that consumers will be more reluctant to spend money at a business that is accused of racism – even if the review is fake. This consideration has led people to question how Yelp will isolate real and fictitious accounts of racism.

Many are also concerned that people may falsely accuse a business of racism out of dissatisfaction with an aspect unrelated to racism – attempting to ruin a business.

However, Yelp has stated that the new ‘Business Accused of Racist Behavior’ warning is an extension of their ‘Public Attention Alert’, which “warns consumers that a business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention.” In other words, a business will receive an alert on their page when it is publicly exposed for racist behavior – a link to a published news article will be provided in the alert.

 

Although Yelp has moral intentions, many are bothered by the possible repercussions this new policy will have on struggling businesses as we are currently in a recession due to the pandemic.

Others are frustrated with Yelp as they fear people will use this new policy to push their own political agendas at the expense of many businesses.

 

One Twitter user points out that the policy itself is racist as it neglects to consider other minority groups such as Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, etc.

Yelp may be urging businesses to stand against racism, but many are calling them out as hypocrites because Yelp has been involved with many instances of racist and sexist behaviors in the past.

Because many view this new policy as unfair, Twitter users are encouraging business owners to team up and sue Yelp.

People Who Support Yelp’s New Policy

Although people are furious with the new policy, there are many who support Yelp’s decision to implement this new feature as they believe it will help businesses be more cautious of racism.

 

For businesses that are worried Yelp may penalize them for racist behavior, Yelp partnered with ‘Open to All,’ which serves as a toolkit for small and medium businesses to learn how to foster an environment that welcomes diversity. Included with ‘Open to All’ is a 60 minute unlearning bias video for training employees, outreach language for customers and employees, and social media assets. Currently, there are about half a million businesses enrolled in this program.

Though Yelp has the right intentions, will this new policy hurt the economy? Also, how effective will this policy be in combating racism? Do you think there will be fraudulent claims of racism out of spite?