Yelp Takes A Proactive Stance Against Racism on Their Platform
Since the murder of George Floyd in May, many businesses have taken steps to combat racism on their online platforms and in their physical communities. A recent example of a commitment to combat online racism comes from the company Yelp. On October 8, the company announced via an online press release that they would begin marking the pages of businesses accused of racist conduct with a new alert. An October 9 New York Times article, as well as Yelp’s original press release, give details about how this new alert will be implemented on Yelp’s platform.
Noorie Malik, Yelp’s VP of User Operations announced Yelp’s new alert in an online press release. Malik’s release reaffirmed Yelp’s commitment to “diversity, inclusion and belonging, both internally and on [their] platform” and spoke to other recent initiatives Yelps has undertaken to combat racism (Malik, 2020). Some of these past initiatives include joining the 15 Percent Pledge to amplify black-owned business and partnering with My Black Receipt to launch a “Black-owned business attribute” for their site (Malik, 2020). This new alert will certainly be Yelp’s most visible step to date, but it comes as a part of Yelp’s continued commitment to fighting racism.
The idea of creating an alert, or marking, for Yelp pages is not a new concept for this company. Previously, Yelp has marked the pages of websites whose reviews may be influenced by something other than an actual in-restaurant experience, such as a news story or social media, to make users aware of potential biases in reviews. For the “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert” (pictured below), Yelp said in their statement that the alert will be placed “when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols,” and a link to a news article about the incident will be provided on the alert (Malik, 2020). A panel of moderators will decide which businesses are given alerts when potential racist behavior is brought to Yelp’s attention. According to the NYT article, Yelp’s new racist behavior alert had only been placed on a few business pages as of its writing.
These extra steps do make these alerts slightly more involved than other alerts of Yelp’s in the past, and there are already some potential flaws in the system. The NYT article raised a number of points concerning the enforceability of the new alert and how the company would deal with the potential for misinformation. According to the article, any drastic increase in reviews for a particular business would be sent to the moderator team, “who would alert customers that recent reviews many not be based on firsthand experiences” (Gross, 2020). Yelp declined to say how many moderators they currently have on staff, so it is impossible to know exactly how expedient the moderator team will be in researching the claims, publishing the alerts, and making any corrections if necessary.
Yelp’s choice was also met with some criticism from other sources, namely on social media. Donald Trump, Jr., son of U.S. President Donald Trump, took to Twitter (pictured below) to denounce the alert and express concerns over the potential abuse of the feature. Personally, I do not think these criticisms are entirely valid if Yelp is able to remain commitment to the initial purpose of the warning and not allow it to be abused. Yelp certainly has the procedures in place for this new alert, and as long as the team of moderators and relevant news articles are reliable, this new alert will not be easily abused. If Yelp could be more transparent about their moderator team and their processes for this alert, I think that could help quell these criticisms.
This new alert from Yelp relates directly to our class concept of ethics and the corporate social responsibility. Rather than focusing solely on profits, Yelp is choosing to take a proactive stance and create societal change via their platform. Yelp’s continued commitment to social issues is clear from their extensive history of contributions to social causes, including in 2017 when they added a feature that allowed users to “filter results by the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms” (Gross, 2020).
Donald Trump Jr. On Twitter. (2020, October 9). Twitter. https://twitter.com/DonaldJTrumpJr/status/1314556494436855809
Gross, J. (2020, October 9). Yelp Says It Will Mark Pages of Businesses Accused of Racist Conduct. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/business/yelp-racism.html
Malik, N. (2020, October 8). New Consumer Alert on Yelp Takes Firm Stance Against Racism. Yelp. https://blog.yelp.com/2020/10/new-consumer-alert-on-yelp-takes-firm-stance-against-racism