At Yelp, we value diversity, inclusion and belonging, both internally and on our platform, which means we have a zero tolerance policy to racism. We know these values are important to our users and now more than ever, consumers are increasingly conscious of the types of businesses they patronize and support. In fact, we’ve seen that reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses were up more than 617% this summer compared to last summer. Support for women-owned businesses has also increased, with review mentions up 114% for the same time period.
Over the summer, Yelp rolled out a number of initiatives to help users find and support Black-owned businesses. We partnered with My Black Receipt on the launch of a Black-owned business attribute and joined the 15 Percent Pledge to further amplify Black-owned businesses. While searches for Black-owned businesses surged on Yelp, so did the volume of reviews warning users of racist behavior at businesses. Today, in response to this, we will now place a distinct Consumer Alert on business pages to caution people about businesses that may be associated with overtly racist actions.
A New Consumer Alert to Stand Against Racism
Communities have always turned to Yelp in reaction to current events at the local level. As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions. Yelp’s User Operations team already places alerts on business pages when we notice an unusual uptick in reviews that are based on what someone may have seen in the news or on social media, rather than on a first-hand experience with the business. Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident.
Yelp’s top priority is to ensure the trust and safety of our users and provide them with reliable content to inform their spending decisions, including decisions about whether they’ll be welcome and safe at a particular business. We advocate for personal expression and provide a platform that encourages people to share their experience online, but at the same time it’s always been Yelp’s policy that all reviews must be based on actual first-hand consumer experiences with the business. This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform. We don’t allow people to leave reviews based on media reports because it can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating.
How Yelp Manages Media-fueled Reviews
The new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert is an extension of our Public Attention Alert that we introduced in response to a rise in social activism surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. If someone associated with a business is accused of, or the target of, racist behavior, we will place a Public Attention Alert on the business page to warn consumers that the business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention. For businesses accused of overtly racist actions, where we can link to a news article, we will escalate our warning with the Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert.
So far in 2020, we’ve seen a 133% increase in the number of media-fueled incidences on Yelp compared to the same time last year. Between May 26 and September 30, we placed more than 450 alerts on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement. We have maintained around-the-clock support over the last few months to ensure that we’re maintaining the trust and safety of our users and business owners.
Resources for Small Businesses Wanting to Create Inclusive Environments
Many local businesses want to create a more inclusive environment for employees and customers alike, but they often don’t have the resources that larger companies do to access training materials, educate employees, and develop language to share with their customers and employees. That’s why Yelp and Open to All® have partnered to bring local businesses a new toolkit that allows them to take the next step in creating an inclusive community. The toolkit includes a 60-minute unlearning bias training video for employees, outreach language for customers and employees, social media assets, and more. With more than half a million businesses indicating themselves as Open to All on their Yelp business page, Open to All has created resources for small and medium-sized businesses to uplevel their diversity and inclusion practices. Learn more about these new resources here.
Increasingly, consumers across the U.S. are voting with their dollars by supporting businesses that align with their values. As always, we continue to evaluate how we can best use our platform to build a better, more equitable and inclusive environment where consumers and businesses can interact safely and fully informed.