Yelp vs. fake reviews

Yelp is cracking down on fake reviews with a little public shaming.

Like many sites that deal in reviews, Yelp has been battling bogus ones for some time.

A hand holding a phone with the Yelp logo on the screen over a background of torn paper.

Since 2012, the review site has caught ~5k businesses paying people to post reviews on the site, per Engadget.

Now, it’s turning to the shame bell

For transparency, Yelp slaps an alert on business profiles where something weird is afoot. That includes businesses engaging in “compensated” reviews (i.e., paying for them) or “suspicious” behavior, such as multiple reviews coming from one IP address.

The company’s new index tracks all current and past compensated and suspicious activity alerts, and puts them online for anyone to see.

It’s not a particularly searchable database — it would probably be more useful as a spreadsheet than a list — but it’s something.

Why it matters

Fake reviews are rampant across the internet, and both companies and the FTC are desperate to stop them and restore consumer trust.

Last year, Amazon sued the admins of 10k+ Facebook groups, accusing them of soliciting bogus reviews.

The FTC took its first action against fake reviews in 2019, fining a supplement company $12.8m.

In June — and in the wake of generative AI — the FTC proposed additional penalties for businesses caught:

  • Selling, obtaining, or buying fake reviews
  • Repurposing real reviews
  • Buying or selling fake social media indicators, such as followers or views

BTW: The Hustle’s Zachary Crockett once spent two weeks in Facebook’s fake Amazon community to figure out how it operated. Check it out here.

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