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Why Yelp Will Never Be Rid of Phony Reviews

Why Yelp Will Never Be Rid of Phony Reviews
Photograph by Chris Knorr/Corbis

If you build a business on user-generated restaurant reviews, you’re going to spend a lot of time developing new ways to limit posts by shills and scammers. On Monday, Yelp laid out the latest step in its battle to keep its pages at least somewhat credible: a new round of “Consumer Alerts” that warn readers away from listings that seem suspiciously sunny.

Last October, Yelp flagged the pages of a handful of businesses it caught soliciting positive reviews on such sites as Craigslist and Freelancer. Since then, the company has started busting restaurants that trade discounts for positive reviews and watching for IP addresses that generate tons of glowing feedback. If Yelp concludes that a restaurant is playing dirty, it adorns the offender’s page with a scarlet letter of sorts. Eateries that scrub their listings and work themselves back into Yelp’s good graces can get the alert taken down after 90 days.