• david oremland

    Greg: I believe it is helpful to counter the impact of anonymous reviews that for so many reasons, can be used to tank a business. A slew of bad reviews on yelp can do that. That is also chilling. A person can’t yell fire in a crowded theater is the example often used that begins to define limits on free speech.

    Speech!!! There weren’t reviews when the constitution was written let alone anonymous reviews.

    Speech!!! There wasn’t PAID political advertising by now anonymous billionaire sources when the constitution was written.

    One needs to test hard the protections of rights when modern mechanisms can be used for such destructive and sometimes incredibly malicious purposes.

    I hope they surface the commentators. That would be tremendously interesting.

  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    Hm … kind of the strange case.

    I’m not sure what is the problem in this case to uncover reviewers.
    There is no doubt, that reviewers shouldn’t be uncovered per request of the business reviewed. But what is the problem when the court ruled ?

    It’s highly possible, that this is not about the Anonymity, but about YELP’s business model. If it appears, that these negative reviews are false, then YELP has to create kind of the system to keep those who write negative reviews under control. I’m not sure, if this is possible for YELP. The whole business model can be seriously damaged.

  • Guest

    That’s all well and good, but I’ve had my life threatened by a business owner when I used my real name and left a review. “I know where you live” and all that. I feel much more comfortable telling the truth anonymously, where the crazies can hear my feedback but not bring crazy to my house.

  • Tian_Mian

    Before a negative review gets posted the business owner should get the possibility to exchange some private messages with the reviewer.

  • Chris Koszo

    @gregsterling After years of working with many small business owners, I have one thing to say: Yelp can be a real nightmare! If you don’t currently have a Yelp profile, don’t even THINK OF creating one. There’s no going back, and the risk is too great!

    Want to know what really grinds my gears though? Yelp does in fact use a different algorithm on the “hidden reviews” when you’re a paying advertiser! Here’s how it works in most cases:

    1) A small business owner has a great little shop with good service, and they have a nice little amount of good and very good reviews over the years on Yelp. All is well!!

    2) One day, something happens or a mean person comes in and leaves a terrible review on their page. Oh crap, the owners are like what to do?! Everyone can see this review!

    3) The small business owner then does the most logical thing and tells all their customers after that incident to leave a review, etc. and mentions that it will really help their business if they show their support via a good review. Sounds like a good idea right??!

    4) A few up to a few dozen new customers proceed to leave a good review for the small business, but guess what? They don’t show up! They go straight to the Yelp Filter? In addition, the previous good reviews also disappear into the filter and only a handful of reviews are left on the page, INCLUDING the one bad review. The bad review will always stay on the page! Why is this you ask??

    Well, in short the Yelp filter was tripped and now the small business owner is screwed… It happened automatically, due to Yelps algorithm which perks up everytime a business receives more than their normal share of good reviews following a bad review. In other words, if a business normally receives one review a month on average, than following a bad review they start recieving 4 reviews a month (or one a week), Yelp immediately ASSUMES that the small business is gaming the system by compensating the bad review with good reviews and thus penalizes them. Yelp assumes it’s bogus reviews and comes down the the hammer.

    So how do you get out of this penalty then (which is permanent BTW)? Only one option: start paying up!! After this scenario happens to a business, the only way for them to stay in Yelp’s good graces is to keep paying $300-500+ a month to be an advertiser… Guess what, when you’re an advertiser, your profile falls under a different algorithm that doesn’t carry such a harsh penalty. In other words, more of your good reviews show up like before, and maybe even the bad reviews will be hidden by the filter. Funny how this works, no? Sounds a bit like Yelp EXTORTION!

    Yelp of course denies this vehemently and says they never add or remove reviews manually etc, but they conveniently fail to mention that there’s mulitple versions of their “constantly changing” algorithm (nice euphemism!) of which one of the input factors is if you’re an advertiser or not. Obviously, thismakes their denial moot! What a bunch of racketeers! I hate Yelp.

    TL;DR: Yelp profile treatment and filtered reviews for advertisers vs non paying businesses is not the same. Yelp=extortion. Still the same in 2014.

  • http://SEARCH.lol/ David Neville

    You will always get fake results when you give Yelp a monopoly on YOUR reviews. Looking for help revolutionizing search.

  • FloyydRTurbbo

    The serious question remains-is trashing a business from a concerted mob (as opposed to seven independent reviewers, who have no relation to each other), has the same protection of free speech? I look at Yelp ratings, before I visit an establishment and I use my own judgement as to the reviews were fair or prejudiced.. But if the business has only seven reviews and they all are trashing the business, the business has legitimate concerns as it happened here. This is akin to a food critic, who was sued in NY, which has similarities to this case. May be some one can enlighten me on that case.

  • Scott Avery

    Chris is exactly right. Yelp is the same thing as Enron in my opinion. I have NO idea why Google even acknowledges Yelp given that they are the biggest scam to small business ever. They certainly do filter anything good and only feature the bad. Besides that Yelpers (as they prefer) are some of the worst customers. They’re basically aspiring restaurant critic/hipsters who live a miserable life that comes out through their reviews.

  • Vincent Zegna

    So Yelp play the free speech card!
    A convenient umbrella to hide under and shout that they, and their users

    ‘freedom of speech’ is being violated. It seems that Yelp have a lot more
    to lose than the legal system ‘outing’ users who leave ‘fake’ feedback and
    review behind forum avatars and usernames.

    If it transpires that any reviews are indeed fake, and
    planted to defame or hurt a business, this will most definitely impact Yelp,
    since they would have known following their investigation after complaints from
    Hadeed Carpets. Yelp will lose trust from the business community – and if they
    are forced to comply by a higher court, giving up the names of their users, it
    will set a precedent for similar cases in the future, to not only sue Yelp, but
    other review systems such as Google, Yahoo, etc.,

  • Brian Reagan

    I am not a lawyer, but correct me if I am wrong..the right to speak anonymously doesn’t include the right to defame and escape liability for that simply by maintaining
    anonymity.

  • Atchuthan Sriskandarajah

    Yelp is full of garbage. We had a similar problem with Google, but at least they listened after we affirmed our claim via their online process. We have gotten numerous good genuine reviews from Yelp customers but they will not post those. So what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If good reviews cannot be displayed from legitimate customers, why should false reviews be displayed. Yelp deserves to get a beat down.

  • http://www.arpogo.com/ Mark Warner

    The constitution doesn’t grant anyone the right to slander a business anonymously. Great headline though, every internet marketer out there knows that if you can make it a freedom of speech issue, your CTR, social shares, comments, and ad revenue go through the roof.

  • Steve

    True. Revealing someone’s identity makes a big difference in what they will say in public. Mainly due to fear of retaliation.

  • Guest

    How’d you know it was me??! haha…

  • D C

    The important thing here is, how did a business with a C- BBB rating and a TON of legitimate (Negative) Yelp reviews. From an industry, that is kissin’ cousins with car dealers, end up being the standard bearer for a serious topic????

    This business , to any reasonable eye, already had a shady reputation. This entire case hinges on their contention that they were “harmed” in business and reputation, by 7 “fake” reviews.
    Quite simply laughable.

  • D C

    No, they should not

  • D C

    That is NOT what happened here, this business has a C- BBB rating, they have a ton of negative reviews from established “yelpers” They have over 90 filtered (negative) reviews many of which “seem” legit.
    This case and what it means, needed examination. But this business is not the shining standard bearer for a serious topic.

  • D C

    It’s libel, unless you are in the town square on a soapbox

  • Paul Rice

    Guest, If you have been threatened by a business owner then you need to call the police and file a report. None of us should be scared to speak out about a company and there are laws in place to protect us so that we do not HAVE to be anonymous.