Yelp knows that its credibility is as good as its reviews, so today it is publishing its first report on consumer notices, which describes in detail the incidents in which the Yelp team intervened to cut reviews or fraudulent activity. The report sheds light on the behavior that might be expected to happen on a review site – people trying to play the system – but only focuses on success stories where the human Yelp team or the software have detected abnormal behavior. The result of the detection is sometimes closed user accounts, but more frequently, a “consumer notice” posted on company pages. The company also launched “suspicious review activity” badges this year, which should indicate when it thinks reviews are associated with fake review rings.
Overall, Yelp posted more than 580 consumer alerts on different business pages after collecting positive reviews from the same IP address and posted more than 300 alerts on pages where Yelp had been informed that the owner of the company was by purchasing or encouraging reviews. The company claims to have closed 550 user accounts this year associated with a single ring of reviews focused on creating fraudulent reviews.
In the report, the team also detailed the various reasons why fraudulent reviews could be made, including political activism, acting fandoms and viral news. YouTube star challenge videos, which involve people trying out one-star restaurants in their area, also contribute to the publication of fake reviews.
Of course, Yelp published this report to show that it takes fake reviews seriously, but it’s hard to say how big the problem with those fraudulent reviews is. Yelp’s goal, as evidenced by this report, is to demonstrate that its software is detecting bad behavior, even more effectively than its human moderators. However, Noorie Malik, Yelp’s operations manager, tells me that her team searches for indicators of fraud on the web and constantly searches for fake reviews. They are also informed when customers or competitors notice that an establishment encourages reviews when people notice physical signs in the establishment.
Just like any other review store, including Rotten Tomatoes, Apple Podcast and Steam, Yelp needs to maintain the integrity of its platform to get people back.