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Friday, January 25, 2013

Yelp reviews under extensive new scrutiny

Very few things can enrage restaurateurs as much as negative Yelp reviews. Customers can get online and trash a restaurant with all kinds of hidden motives. Some, as is true wherever comment is invited, suffer from what I call Multiple Screen Name Personality Disorder. They assume different identities to create a fake consensus.

Recently, businesses have started to fight back. The most recent example is a $750,000 defamation lawsuit filed by a building contractor against a Yelp-screeching customer. Ditto for the patient who wrote a blistering review of her dermatologist.

At the same time, though, an avalanche of positive reviews can be as misleading as negative ones. In fact, it turns out that many businesses actually pay people to write positive reviews. Yelp is now taking major steps to weed out such fakes with considerable success. (See video above.)

Yelp has also begun reporting restaurants' health department ratings.

Meanwhile, though, Yelp has experienced a considerable drop in its stock since Facebook announced its new tool, Graph Search. It enables searches of friends' favorite restaurants, among other businesses, so that consumers need not depend on Yelp's anonymous commentary.

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