If you get on Yelp, you might notice a strange notification pop up for certain businesses. Yelp is now implementing a “Racism Button” on businesses accused of racial intolerance or “overtly racist actions” as it is mentioned on their website.
What does this mean for the average business using Yelp to gain customers? Well, hopefully, nothing. If your business and employees are doing what they should, ideally this pop-up will not affect your company.
But that’s not how the world works.
Ever since the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests across the country, Yelp has seen mention of black-owned businesses increase 617% since last year. However, along with that came a large increase of reviews warning people of racist behavior. To help, Yelp is adding a distinct notification that shows which businesses have been associated with racism.
If this sounds a little scary that Yelp can suddenly label you a racist, don’t freak out just yet. Yelp knows how the internet works. In their blog addressing the situation, they mention that they have dealt with swarms of online trolls before.
Sometimes, people’s angry reviews go viral and thousands of strangers, who have nothing to do with the situation, will dog pile onto Google Reviews and Yelp leaving terrible reviews like a form of online mob justice. Yelp knows this isn’t fair to those businesses and can moderate the reviews. Though, with the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, Yelp wants to use this as an opportunity to let customers know if they may be unsafe or unwelcome at certain establishments.
“As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions. Yelp’s User Operations team already places alerts on business pages when we notice an unusual uptick in reviews that are based on what someone may have seen in the news or on social media, rather than on the first-hand experience with the business. Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident.”
Based on this paragraph from their blog post, even if an angry customer left a scathing review falsely accusing you of racism, this notification most likely will not pop up. It seems to only affect businesses who have been on the news or gone viral for some racist incidents.
For the average business owner, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Unless your company is involved with a massive scandal, the chances of you being labeled racist by Yelp seem very low.
Regardless, one can only hope this new feature isn’t abused by the public. Dragging a company’s name through the mud can destroy years of brand building. If Yelp knows what they’re doing they cannot throw this warning on just anyone without just cause, or risk being sued for libel.
That being said, everyone can agree racism is abhorrent, and if you are truly running a quality business any form of racism should not be tolerated. You shouldn’t panic, but healthy skepticism might be necessary. People have taken advantage of algorithms before. Yelp seems to mainly only doing this for two reasons. To show the public they do not stand by racists, but also to give the public the choice to see if what is being said is true, by providing links to news articles related to potential racist events. If you’re a business that prides itself on having quality employees, you have nothing to fear.
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