Should Yelp be calling out businesses accused of racist behavior?
Yelp, the local search and review site, announced it will display warnings if restaurants, retailers and other businesses are accused of racist conduct.
The site will post a “Business Accused Of Racist Behavior” alert next to listings when there has been “resounding evidence” that a business owner or employee had taken egregious actions, such as using racist slurs or symbols. Yelp will link each alert to a news article from a “credible media outlet.”
Yelp will use a lower-level “Public Attention” alert to flag businesses whose staff members have been accused of racism toward customers or who have been the target of racism by managers.
The crowd-sourced review site has long faced challenges policing bogus reviews and it has been urged to moderate false and misleading online content similarly to Google, Facebook and Twitter. The issue has intensified in light of the national movement to recognize racial injustice that followed the police killing of George Floyd in May.
“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,” said Noorie Malik, vice president of user operations, in a blog post last Thursday.
Yelp reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses catapulted more than 617 percent this summer, but so did the volume of reviews warning of racist behavior. Yelp placed more than 450 alerts between May 26 and Sept. 30 on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior.
“Increasingly, consumers across the U.S. are voting with their dollars by supporting businesses that align with their values,” wrote Ms. Malik.
Concerns were expressed over whether such a system could be abused by users. Yelp also did not detail how it would determine which news organizations are credible or how it defined “resounding evidence.”
“I’m happy they’re trying to do something around issues of racism, particularly in business,” Anela Malik, founder of Feed the Malik, a website dedicated to highlighting Black-owned restaurants, told The Washington Post. “But I couldn’t even imagine how I could design a system that would be impartial and actually work.”
- New Consumer Alert on Yelp Takes Firm Stance Against Racism – Yelp
- Yelp Says It Will Mark Pages of Businesses Accused of Racist Conduct – The New York Times
- Yelp will flag businesses accused of racist conduct – Bloomberg/Mercury News
- Yelp’s move to flag restaurants accused of racism could be ‘a step in the right direction’ — and problematic – The Washington Post
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Yelp’s alert system for racist behavior be a responsible way to hold businesses accountable and help consumers make value-based purchases or will such a system be ripe for abuse? Do you expect to see other review sites offering something similar?