Yelp has removed thousands of 'review bombing' attempts that target businesses' COVID-19 safety measures such as vaccine requirements

© Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images Kindrick Brooke checks a vaccination card outside Risky Business in Los Angeles. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

  • Businesses on Yelp can now specify COVID-19 vaccine requirements for customers and staff.
  • This has led some people to try to “review bomb” bars and restaurants with one-star reviews.
  • Yelp freezes company pages when review bombing is suspected and proactively removes reviews.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bars and restaurants that list their vaccine requirements on Yelp are being hit with one-star “review bomb” attempts proactively removed by Yelp, WSJ reported on Tuesday.

While Yelp’s content guidelines require that reviews be based on first-hand customer experience, some users are taking to the platform to post opinions on COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.

“Not sure why my review was removed,” one user wrote in a since-removed one star-review on the Yelp page for cocktail bar The Alembic in San Francisco. “This bar has recently implemented a medical apartheid which is just horrific.”

Insider’s Allana Akhtar spoke to Kathryn Kulczyc, the co-owner and general manager of The Alembic earlier this August. Kulczyc said that while the negative Yelp reviews were harmful, she believed requiring proof of vaccination was the best way to protect her staff from the virus.

“People were calling us Nazis,” Kulczyc told The Wall Street Journal. “Saying that we supported the devil because we wanted proof of vaccination.”

-Yelp (@Yelp) August 2, 2021

Attempted review bombings on Yelp are not entirely new – when the company launched a feature that highlighted minority-owned businesses in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a similar system was put in place to remove hateful or racist reviews that violated content guidelines.

Yelp launched “unusual activity alerts” as a way to detect cases of review bombing. Triggered by abnormal spikes in page traffic, Yelp moderators can freeze the businesses’ page and delete posts in violation of the app’s content guidelines. However, this risks positive reviews from being frozen as well.

“When a business gains public attention, people often come to Yelp to express their views on the matter,” Noorie Malik, VP of User Operations wrote on the company website. “Mitigating against these ‘review bombing’ events has become a significant issue for online review platforms.”

She added that Yelp is proactively monitoring pages that choose to indicate their vaccine requirements on the app in order to avoid “backlash.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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