With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID Delta variant, we’re seeing an increasing number of businesses implement new safety measures to protect their employees and communities. To help consumers understand how a business is currently operating as pandemic guidelines continue to evolve, today, Yelp is announcing two new, free attributes – “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated.” Users will be able to filter by these attributes when searching for local businesses on Yelp and will easily see “Proof of vaccination required” indicated on restaurant, food and nightlife businesses in search results.
To help protect businesses that may experience backlash for their vaccination policies, we are proactively monitoring Yelp pages of businesses that activate these attributes. This is one of the significant measures Yelp takes to maintain the integrity and quality of the content on our platform.
Yelp’s Content Guidelines require that all reviews be based on a first-hand consumer experience. However, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a rise in reviews focused on people’s stance on COVID vaccinations rather than their actual experience with the business. When a business gains public attention, people often come to Yelp to express their views on the matter. Mitigating against these “review bombing” events has become a significant issue for online review platforms, which is why Yelp has heavily invested to address this phenomenon for years through our Consumer Alerts program.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve placed Unusual Activity Alerts on a Yelp page when we uncover an influx of activity in response to a business gaining public attention for their stance on COVID health and safety practices — including requiring vaccinations for employees and/or customers. In fact, since January 2021, we’ve placed more than 100 Unusual Activity Alerts on Yelp pages related to these incidents, which has resulted in the removal of nearly 4,500 reviews for violating our content policies.
Protecting Businesses From "Review Bombing"
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen incidents of “review bombing” increase around the health and safety precautions businesses implement. Reviews from customers that criticize a business’s vaccination requirements violate our special COVID Content Guidelines, which were introduced in March 2020 to protect businesses from reputational harm related to the pandemic. In 2021, we’ve removed nearly 8,000 reviews for violating these guidelines. Both consumers and businesses can report reviews that “represent an extraordinary circumstance (e.g. COVID-19, media-fueled)” by following these steps. A member of our User Operations team investigates each flagged review and, if it’s found to be in violation of our policies, removes it from our platform.
For businesses that activate “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated” on their Yelp page, we are putting protective measures in place to proactively safeguard them from reviews that primarily criticize the COVID health and safety measures they enforce. We put a similar system in place when we launched our Black-owned attribute in June 2020, and followed the same process for our other identity attributes, such as Latinx-owned, Asian-owned, and LGBTQ-owned. By proactively monitoring business pages that activated these identity attributes for any hateful, racist or other harmful content that violates our Content Guidelines, we thwarted and removed nearly 400 reviews for containing harmful content.
At Yelp, we have signals in place that alert our moderators if there is an unusual spike in traffic on a business’s Yelp page. If warranted, our team of moderators will investigate and may temporarily disable the ability to post as we place an alert over the business’s reviews. After activity on the business page has dramatically decreased or stopped, we will clean up the page so only first-hand consumer experiences are reflected.
For businesses that currently have an Unusual Activity Alert on their Yelp page, they can expect the alert to be removed once unusual activity on the business page has decreased or stopped. This can take from a few days to several weeks — the actual duration is determined once traffic on the business page has decreased.
Additionally, as pandemic guidelines have evolved since we first introduced our COVID-19 section, we’re refreshing the way that content is displayed on business pages to better provide the most up-to-date and useful information to consumers. Businesses that currently require masks from customers and staff can activate “Masks required” and “Staff wears masks” attributes through their Yelp for Business account.
At Yelp, we are committed to providing consumers with reliable and useful information to help them decide where to spend their money, and at the same time, we aim to level the playing field for all businesses. That’s why we’ve long invested in mitigating misinformation on our platform, to give consumers access to trusted content while helping businesses focus on what they do best: provide a great customer experience.