Yelp published its 2022 Trust and Safety Report detailing actions it took against lead generators, fake review groups and businesses incentivizing reviews.
Yelp Cracks Down on Paid Review Groups
The report details the proactive approach to chasing down online review groups and breaking them up.
Among the tactics Yelp used is identifying IP addresses used for fake positive reviews, as well as connecting users to groups that are arranging paid reviews.
Yelp’s Trust and Safety report revealed that it fights online review exchanges by identifying the groups on social media and working together with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to break them up.
In a 2021 blog post about their recommendation software, Yelp wrote that they monitor online groups and even conduct sting operations to catch the fake review rings.
Yelps newly released Trust and Safety report explains:
“Yelp strictly prohibits offering incentives or other compensation in exchange for writing, changing or removing a review.
To combat this on and off our platform, our User Operations team did the following in 2022:
– Issued 415+ warnings to businesses for engaging in compensated or incentivized review behaviors.
– 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.
Made 1,100+ reports to third-party sites, such as Twitter (150 reports were made by Yelp), Facebook (130 reports), Instagram (110 reports) and LinkedIn (70 reports), to warn them of content from more than 900 suspicious groups, posts or individuals we found on their sites participating in online review exchanges.
Third-party platforms took action on content at issue in approximately 77% of our reports.”
Yelp Closes Thousands of Fraudulent Accounts
The Trust and Safety report reports that Yelp closed over 77,000 user accounts for terms of service violations and suspected deceptive and abusive actions.
They also rejected over 32,800 potential new business pages for being associated with spammy activities that violated Yelp’s policies.
An interesting revelation is how they came down hard on lead generation businesses whose business model is to create fake business listings and then sell leads to local businesses.
“Nearly 2,000 business pages removed for being associated with lead generators, violating Yelp’s policies.
‘Lead generators’ create fake business pages then take the customer leads generated and auction them to other contractors.
This behavior tricks people into paying exorbitant costs for services, targeting vulnerable consumers who are often allowing service providers into their home (locksmiths, movers, home cleaning, etc.).”
Yelp User Operations Team Content Removals
The report notes that 2% of all Yelp contributions were removed by their user operations team in 2022. That includes reviews, photos, review up-voting, and other forms of contributions.
Yelp Trust and Safety
The integrity of reviews is important to a recommender ecosystem like Yelp. Yelp uses a recommendation software as their first line of defense against deceptive behavior. The software itself is dynamic in that it keeps tabs on the users and businesses as they engage with the platform.
“The recommendation software is entirely automated and applies the same objective rules to every business. The reviews that are recommended for any business can change over time as Yelp’s software learns more about the reviewers and the business.”
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