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October 26, 2011

Case Dismissed. (Again.)

The reason tens of millions of people use Yelp every month to help them find a great local business is because they trust Yelp’s review content. We work hard to keep that trust by protecting the integrity of our review content, and use a number of methods to prevent shill or otherwise unreliable reviews from misleading consumers and harming businesses. As we’ve discussed here many times, we use an automated algorithm to filter our content to help us showcase the most reliable reviews we can.

This makes Yelp a little bit different than other review sites, which can be strange and unsettling to some businesses. Additionally, since protecting content integrity is a difficult task, our automated algorithm isn’t perfect: sometimes legitimate content can get caught. This is an unfortunate reality in an environment where some folks are determined to try to game the system, but it is a price we are willing to pay to protect consumers and remain a useful resource.

Last year, a few small businesses from among the 20 million or so in the United States filed misguided lawsuits against Yelp alleging that we reward or penalize businesses based on whether they advertised with Yelp. Nothing could be further from the truth; our automated system applies the same objective criteria to all reviews regardless of a business’s advertiser status. (Just check a Yelp advertiser’s business page -- I bet they have a negative review or two; after all, you just can’t please everyone all the time.)

I’m pleased to announce that a judge today granted Yelp’s request to dismiss these suits against us, with prejudice. (This means the plaintiffs can’t file these claims again.) While we were confident that Yelp would ultimately prevail because we knew the allegations were false, it is helpful to have the matter resolved early so we can put these allegations behind us.

At Yelp, our mission is to connect people with great local businesses. Part of that work is to protect consumers and businesses from unreliable reviews. Another part of that work is helping small businesses understand how customer reviews work online and how they can help amplify and improve the reputation they’ve earned offline. We will continue to focus our efforts on both.