Yelp’s mission is to connect consumers with great local businesses by giving them access to reliable and useful information. We take significant measures to maintain the integrity and quality of the content on Yelp, while leveling the playing field for all businesses.
Today, we’re releasing the 2022 Yelp Trust & Safety Report, which outlines how we use our automated recommendation software to recommend the most helpful reviews to users; combat compensated and incentivized reviews; remove harmful content and bad actors from our platform; improve transparency around Crisis Pregnancy Centers; moderate business pages that gain public attention; protect consumers from abuses of the legal system; and more.
As the FTC reviews comments submitted to inform the development of new rules on fake reviews, and as the Supreme Court takes on a case that could affect review sites’ ability to rely on the protections of Section 230 in attempting to limit deceptive content, the future of review platforms and their accountability when it comes to fake reviews has never been more important. Yelp’s Trust & Safety Report provides valuable insights on the robust processes we have in place via automated systems and human moderation to maintain the trust consumers have in our platform.
Recommending the most helpful and reliable reviews
Yelp’s automated recommendation software regularly analyzes all reviews, reviewers and businesses using hundreds of signals and billions of data points to evaluate the usefulness and reliability of each review. In 2022, approximately 21 million cumulative reviews were contributed — which includes reviews that are currently recommended, not recommended or that have been removed as of December 31, 2022.
Combating compensated and incentivized reviews
Yelp strictly prohibits offering incentives or other compensation in exchange for writing, changing or removing a review. Our User Operations team enlists a variety of measures to thwart these deceptive behaviors both on and off Yelp’s platform.
warnings issued to businesses by Yelp’s User Operations team for engaging in compensated or incentivized review behaviors.
In 2022, as part of our broader Consumer Alerts program, we placed 88 Compensated Activity Alerts on business pages after receiving evidence someone offered cash or other incentives in exchange for posting, updating or removing a review. We also placed 405 Suspicious Review Activity Alerts after our systems detected a large number of positive reviews coming from a single IP address, or reviews from users who may be connected to a group that coordinates incentivized reviews. Relatedly, we also closed more than 1,740 user accounts for being associated with review rings or as part of our Suspicious Review Activity Alert investigations.
Conducting deceptive review investigations on third-party sites
Yelp regularly coordinates investigations to uncover deceptive review practices, including monitoring and infiltrating online groups on other platforms where people may attempt to trade or pay for reviews.
reports made by Yelp to other online platforms to warn them of content from more than 900 suspicious groups, posts or individuals we found on their sites.
We’ve had some success in working with third-party platforms to take down the content we report, and they took action on content at issue in approximately 77% of our reports. However, ultimately we are not able to control what’s being posted on other sites or how other platforms decide to handle our reports.
Removing potentially harmful content from Yelp
Yelp’s User Operations team investigates content and platform activity through proactive and reactive moderation efforts. In 2022, we removed more than 26,500 reviews for containing threats, lewdness, hate speech and other potentially harmful content.
user accounts closed due to Terms of Service violations, including suspected deceptive or abusive behaviors.
We also verify each new business page submitted to Yelp, rejecting more than 32,800 potential new business pages for being associated with spammy behaviors in violation of Yelp’s policies. These efforts prevent bad actors from creating fake, duplicate or multiple listings with an intent to generate leads, dilute search results and/or gain SEO advantages.
Improving transparency around crisis pregnancy centers
It’s well-reported that crisis pregnancy centers do not offer abortion services and that some provide misleading information in an attempt to steer people to other options. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, we introduced a new consumer notice on Yelp business pages categorized as Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The notice informs consumers that these businesses typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.
Yelp’s User Operations team also manually evaluated more than 55,600 reproductive health services business pages, and recategorized more than 1,300 as Crisis Pregnancy Centers when they found that the business did not offer actual abortion services or referrals to such services.
Moderating business pages that gain public attention
When a business gains public attention, consumers may come to Yelp to express their opinions through reviews. However, Yelp’s Content Guidelines require that all reviews must be based on genuine, first-hand consumer experiences. In these instances, we may place a Media Attention Alert on the business page and temporarily disable the ability to post reviews to thwart attempts to artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating, which can mislead consumers and hurt businesses. In 2022 we placed more than 2,100 Media Attention Alerts, and as a result removed more than 74,500 reviews related to these alerts.
business pages received an Unusual Activity Alert for incidents related to politics or political figures, resulting in the removal of 4,000+ reviews.
business pages received an Unusual Activity Alert for incidents related to alleged criminal implications and activity, resulting in the removal of 7,400+ reviews.
business pages received an Unusual Activity Alert or Public Attention Alert for incidents related to alleged discrimination, resulting in the removal of 20,900+ reviews.
Protecting consumers from abuses of the legal system
Legal demands can be misused to silence consumers, which is why Yelp often objects to them when they seek personal user account information. About 80% of legal demands we received in 2022 from private parties, government agencies, and law enforcement resulted in no production of user account information. In other words, we avoided producing information related to 92% of all user accounts that were the subject of legal demands in 2022.
Additionally, when we receive evidence that a business may be abusing the legal system to intimidate or silence a reviewer, we may display a Questionable Legal Threats Alert on the business page as part of our Consumer Alerts program. In 2022, we placed 48 Questionable Legal Threat Alerts on business pages, with about 52% of these alerts stemming from gag clauses, or contractual terms that attempt to prohibit consumers from posting feedback about goods or services, which are largely illegal under federal and state law.
For nearly two decades, Yelp has prioritized providing access to reliable and useful information to help consumers make informed spending decisions. Fighting misinformation and deceptive behavior is something we invested in early on, built our platform around, and established systems and processes that were designed to scale over time. We take robust measures to constantly evolve our processes so that we can stay two steps ahead as bad actors are always attempting new strategies.
To learn more about the ways Yelp maintains the integrity and quality of our content, visit trust.yelp.com.