In addition to its robot spam filtration system, Yelp will now post the consumer alert above in an attempt to purify its at time spammy reviews. The online review site, like any other, has to contend with all sorts of review gaming, including businesses paying people for stars. Up until now, Yelp relied on an automated filter that would detect these and other kinds faulty reviews, sending them off of a business's Yelp page, into a separate spam folder. It worked to an extent: "Businesses that are pretty aggressive about soliciting almost always have a lot of reviews filtered," Yelp's director of Business Outreach, Luther Lowe told The Wire last May.
But that system was nowhere near perfect. For one, the filter doesn't affect the number of stars an establishment gets. So people not reading the reviews could still get a skewed impression. Also, sometimes the filter would syphon non-Spammy reviews, giving an equally misinforming picture. Useful or not, apparently this robot hasn't deterred businesses from trying to buy higher rankings anyway. To make its system more reliable, then, Yelp has created its own scarlet letter system. "We’ve put on our detective hats, tracked down these rogue solicitations and are now giving you a heads up," explains a post on the company blog. "Starting today, when we’ve determined that there have been significant attempts to pay for reviews, you may see a warning (like the one below) that some shady practices may be at play." The badge will stay up for 90 days, both alerting Yelpers of the dirty deed and deterring merchants from continuing this practice—in theory.