Ethics Dunce: Yelp


Oh yes, this will work out well.

Yelp,  the online review company, has announced its plan for a submissive grovel to Black Lives Matter and an atack on “systemic racism”: it will post alerts that a business has been accused of racism. The key word is “accused.” The company claims that following the “alert,” it will investigate the claims, but that is absurd: Yelp has neither the staff, expertise nor credibility, and definitely not the authority or access, to investigate such accusations.

Yelp has had well-documented problems with reviews from angry employees, fake customers, and real customers with dubious complaints or sinister agendas. However, in the corporate rush to show alliance with the mostly-peaceful protesters savaging so many cities, Yelp has decided to go all in and buy a ticket on the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. From the announcement of the new race-baiting initiative:

 “Over the summer, Yelp rolled out a number of initiatives to help users find and support Black-owned businesses. We partnered with My Black Receipt on the launch of a Black-owned business attribute and joined the 15 Percent Pledge to further amplify Black-owned businesses. While searches for Black-owned businesses surged on Yelp, so did the volume of reviews warning users of racist behavior at businesses. Today, in response to this, we will now place a distinct Consumer Alert on business pages to caution people about businesses that may be associated with overtly racist actions.”

Here is the “alert”:


The Ethics Alarms position is that Americans should choose the businesses they wish to  patronize according to those businesses’ quality of service, not based on racial bias, which is what choosing businesses according to the color of their owners constitutes. In fact, I look forward to Yelp dealing with a tidal wave of complaints that its own policies are racist.

I also look forward to the lawsuits. “Didn’t think this one through, did you? You are going to be buried under lawsuits you’ll never recover from, rightfully so,” tweeted Amber Smith, former deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense, in reaction to Yelp’s announcement.  Harmeet K. Dhillon, lawyer and founder of the Center For American Liberty, said Yelp facilitating defamation, concluding, “More work for me, more litigation for you.”

To the surprise of no one paying attention, the obvious parties are preparing to exploit Yelp’s idiocy. Here, for example, is a tweet from one of the antifa groups that organized the riots in Portland:


Needless to say, although I’m spelling it out anyway, we have seen the description of “racist” being attached to all kinds of benign, justifiable, and reasonable words and conduct. Either intentionally, negligently or naively, Yelp is just encouraging more race-baiting and intimidation. Director Robby Starbuck was among those critics quoted in Newsweek as stating what is obvious to everyone but Yelp’s submissive executives, apparently:

“This idiotic policy will be weaponized. It’ll destroy families and their businesses which will hurt their kids. Will Yelp get a ‘you’ve been accused of hurting kids’ badge?”

Note that Newsweek refers to the critics of Yelp’s corporate grovel as “conservatives.” Does one have to be conservative to comprehend how stupid and dangerous this particular pandering exercise is?

10 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Yelp

  1. Libel and defamation lawsuits are expensive. Small businesses are not going to be able to afford to go up against a company the size of Yelp. A class action lawsuit is the only thing that might make a dent in them, and how many businesses will have gone under by the time a class action can make an impact?

    Sicking the entirety of the mainstream media complex and Silicon Valley technocracy complex against a small business is not something that can be successively defended against in most situations. Small business is being decimated already by coronavirus lockdowns and leftist state governments.

    This policy is guaranteed to destroy innocent people’s livelihoods, and lives. That is the only logical conclusion, and seems to be the intent. They are openly saying, think how we tell you to or be destroyed.

    • Civil rights and class action lawsuits are pretty deadly, though. Some civil rights statutes are written in such a way that even if the plaintiff gets $1 in damages, the defendant is on the hook for attorney’s fees. Yelp isn’t run by idiots.

  2. Yelp! still exists?
    I’m somewhat involved in online advertising, and will cheerfully annoy people with questions about their online habits. Me at a party: “Hi! Do you ever use Twitter? Do you listen to Sirius radio? How about local stations? Are you on Instagram? Follow any blogs? Can I look at your phone apps?” For the past year or so the response to any questions about Yelp! have been: “It’s useless. Fake reviews. Not since 2011.”
    I expect this will accelerate their decline into irrelevancy. Most businesses take trouble to avoid lawsuits, Yelp! has just painted a bullseye on what’s left of their assets.

  3. I’m not sure Yelp is doing exactly what you think they’re doing…maybe sort of the opposite, in fact. They’ve long had a policy of suspending or sidelining negative reviews for a while when a company starts receiving an unusual influx of suspect negative comments. That sort of review-bombing has often happened after a business appears in the news for some reason or another, and certain segments who disagree with some act or policy the company had adopted take it upon themselves to punish the business by flooding them with fake bad reviews, Yelp’s imposing a sort of cooling down period for people to lose interest and move on. It has happened on both the left and right of the political spectrum, e.g., when a business has been accused of being rude to LEOs. In this case, they may well be protecting businesses that have aroused the ire of the left, like Gibson’s bakery in the Oberlin incident.

    I don’t know why (well, yeah, I guess I really do) Yelp thought they needed to announce a specially designated “racial’ version of their existing procedure. Even though the body of the notice gives an explanation, this warning doesn’t seem neutral enough to avoid people making negative inferences.

      • Yeah, that’s why I said the design of this particular warning seems less neutral than the way they typically handle review bombing. Although it probably does somewhat mitigate the ultimate overall damage to the business by eliminating current bad reviews, I can certainly see people taking it as “We’re not saying ____ is racist, but some people have said so,” It isn’t quite the same thing as their normal treatment, but they can claim that it is, and maybe, in their own “wokeness”, they believe that.

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