Q&A with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman

Ever since the Oakland-based East Bay Express published an explosive story called Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0 a year ago, Yelp Inc. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has been dealing with charges that the company has a bad habit of shaking down small businesses. The scheme, say critics, is that Yelp salespeople call small businesses that have been reviewed on the hugely popular business review site, and offer to let them manipulate the reviews if they pay to advertise with Yelp. Some business owners say that when they refused to advertise, they soon began to notice good reviews disappearing or negative ones becoming easier to find. Now, the grumbling has led to a class action lawsuit. Who knows if the suit has merit, but one thing is for sure: it has refocused attention on the controversy. If the suit goes to trial, Yelp will likely have to disclose more details of its inner workings. While the company has always insisted that advertisers have no control over the reviews that appear on the site (other than the ability to highlight one “sponsored” review they like at the very top of the queue), it has refused to say much about the secret algorithms that determine which reviews appear and in what order.

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