Three separate lawsuits accuse Yelp of strong-arming potential advertisers.
Yesterday, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman announced the user review giant would drop the "Favorite Review" feature and let readers see the reviews that would otherwise have been filtered out by its automated review filter. "Now you can take a look at any business listing on Yelp and see for yourself the work the review filter has done behind the scenes," Stoppelman wrote on the Yelp blog. "Perhaps helping to protect one business from malicious reviews that might stem from a competitor."
Today, TechCrunch notes that, in a press release, the Miami and San Diego law firms who filed the class-action suit against S.F.-based Yelp called Stoppelman's announcement a "first step in the right direction." So Yelp's legal worries might soon be over, right? Not so fast, warns TechCrunch.
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The "Favorite Review" allowed businesses that were Yelp advertisers to list their best review first. And while letting readers see what yelp filters identify as suspect reviews does little to address the meat of the plaintiffs' case. Namely, that Yelp put the squeeze on businesses to compel them to become advertisers, and when they didn't, gave negative reviews greater prominence on their pages.
As Kathleen Wentz of the East Bay Express points out, "it's still unclear how Yelp decides what order to display a business' reviews, and it's possible that manipulation is still occurring."
Consider today's news round one of what promises to be a long fight.