Last October, Yelp announced the start of their latest initiative to help protect users of their site from being exposed to fraudulent reviews. The customer-submitted data hosted on their web-based database has been repeatedly challenged for accuracy in the past.
Many businesses and their employees have been accused of submitting biased, positive reviews on their own behalf. And last year news broke that companies acting as online image consultants have posted ads offering review management services.
Yelp's latest effort involves a sting operation that uses their own employees to seek out companies hiring fake reviewers online. Businesses caught in practices that violate their rules will be branded with a consumer alert for 90 days, warning customers of the businesses alleged practices.
On a page that explains basic facts about the company Yelp claims that more 33 million reviews have been posted to its site, accessed by 84 million unique visitors. As the site continues to gain influence over consumer decisions, individual business have increased incentive to game the system.
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Of the hundreds of thousands of business rated on the site, so far the sting effort has produced eight consumer alerts.