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February 26, 2010

Lady Justice Needs a Lawsuit Filter....

In light of recent news, I wanted to share some thoughts about the lawsuit that was filed against Yelp this week.

There has been a long history of people accusing Yelp of monkeying around with reviews in exchange for money. The allegations are disappointing, not only because they are false, but because they ignore empirical evidence in favor of conspiracy theories.

You can see for yourself: thousands of businesses that advertise on Yelp have both negative and positive reviews. Despite these counter-examples to the contrary (virtually no advertiser on Yelp has a perfect reputation), extensive media explorations that end inconclusively, and the absence of any actual evidence to support this theory, this unfortunate and untrue meme has taken on a life of its own.

The reason 29 million people used Yelp last month to find a great local business is because of the trust they place in the reviews on our site. The entire value of the Yelp community to consumers and businesses hinges upon that trust -- and we would never do anything to jeopardize it. Simply put, Yelp does not remove or hide negative reviews in exchange for money and Yelp salespeople do not offer to do so. Additionally, Yelp treats review content equally for advertisers and non-advertisers alike. Advertisers pay for advertising and enhanced listings, and nothing more; and businesses are not penalized for declining to advertise.

At Yelp our motto is "connecting people with great local businesses." To do that, we aim to provide consumers with the best, authentic information we can about local businesses. We work hard to determine that information is genuine in order to protect consumers from fake, or shill reviews, and businesses from malicious reviews from competitors.

In fact, it's this difficult task that sometimes causes confusion or frustration for some business owners and can lead to these conspiracy theories or worse (see: lawsuit). Anytime a business owner is confused about Yelp -- especially if they decide to file a lawsuit -- we take it very seriously. That's why we empowered businesses owners with a voice on the website over two years ago and launched outreach and education efforts to the business community.

We know this lawsuit to be without merit, we will fight it vigorously, and we are confident we will prevail. And we will not be dissuaded from our mission of helping people connect with great local businesses in their communities. In fact, we will continue to expand to new markets both in the US and internationally, and to provide innovative new ways "to Yelp."