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The Courts Businesses Electronic Frontier Foundation

Appeals Court Clears Yelp of Extortion Claims 63

jfruh writes A U.S. appeals court cleared Yelp of charges of extortion related to its interaction with several small businesses who claim Yelp demanded that they pay for advertising or face negative reviews. While Yelp says it never altered a business rating for money, the court's finding was instead based on a strict reading of the U.S. extortion law, classifying Yelp's behavior as, at most, "hard bargaining." Interestingly, the EFF supported Yelp here, arguing that "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects online service providers from liability and lawsuits over user-generated content, except in very narrow circumstances where the providers created or developed content themselves. In its amicus brief, EFF argued that mere conjecture about contributing content – like there was in this case – is not enough to allow a lawsuit to go forward."
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Appeals Court Clears Yelp of Extortion Claims

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  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno-co.oLISPrg minus language> on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @09:25AM (#47815963) Homepage

    I support a business who has been targeted by yelp, and it's not pleasant. I can't prove anything, but shortly after turning the abusive sales troll down, we started getting negative reviews. Look up the users making the reviews, and it seems they have a history of making negative reviews. What's more, most reviews were factually and demonstrably inaccurate. We couldn't find any of these users in our system, so we knew they weren't customers.

    Now sure, they could have been normal trolls out to do what trolls do, but it just seemed too coincidental that they started popping up after we turned down a business relationship with yelp. Meanwhile, our customers' positive reviews would often never show up on yelp due to their algorithm.

    The obvious solution to this entire headache is to dissuade family and friends from using yelp, spread the word far and wide that they are dishonest in their policies and that companies can pay for reviews. As "family IT", we have far more authority than yelp could ever hope for.

  • by rgbscan ( 321794 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:32AM (#47816429) Homepage

    As someone with quite a bit of Yelp experience, the filter doesn't just filter out people with a single bad review, it also looks at the distribution of the sum of all the reviews on that account. Generally, over time with enough reviews, each user generally falls into a similar pattern systemwide with a pretty regular curve of rating scores distributed over the reviews. Anything deviating from that curve more than 'x' amount gets filtered (it's secret so you can't game it). It's pretty pronounced and predictable - so the sourpusses that leave nothing but bad reviews get filtered no matter how many they write. Same with the people that leave nothing but glowing reviews.

    In my personal experience, the small businesses claiming that Yelp or a competitor are targeting them with bad reviews are full of it. I just go look up their BBB score and almost always see the same types of complaints against the business there. There generally is agreement between a trip advisor rating and a yelp score as well. Sometimes its hard for people to look at their operation and realize they truly do suck. You see it all the time on those reality shows called "Kitchen Disasters" or "Save my Restaurant" with that foreign chap from Hell's Kitchen. They always think they are rock stars and have no idea why their business is failing when dude shows up.

    I have yet to come across a business with multiple well-written (a couple of paragraphs with concrete examples) bad reviews that were legitimately attacks and falsehoods made up by competitors. Granted it's possible, but in my multiple years as a yelper "elite" and with the ~500 or so reviews I've written, I haven't seen it. When people take the time to leave lengthy negative reviews, they are usually legit.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"