Yelp, a website and an app where users rate businesses, will now flag businesses that have been accused of "overt" racism. Yelp announced on Thursday a new alert that will warn users when "someone associated with this business was accused of racist behavior."
"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 said on the company's blog. "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."
The San Francisco-based company will post a red icon at the top of the page of the accused business with the words: "Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert." There will be a link to a news article about the alleged racist incident so users can "learn more."
The alert reads, "Recently someone associated with this business was accused of racist behavior, resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page." Once the alert is enacted, Yelp disables any new reviews for the profile of that business, and an investigation is launched.
"While we understand the desire to warn others about racist behavior associated with a business, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience," the company said.
"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," Noorie Malik, Yelp's vice president of operations, said in the statement. "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."
Yelp said between May 26 and Sept. 30, it had "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."
Many people on social media pointed out the major flaw in the new policy, and how the new alert could be weaponized by activists to target companies they disagree with.
"People weaponize @Yelp reviews all the time. Businesses are easily caught up in the culture war. The charge of racism is too easily made; enabling this feature is a terrible decision for small businesses all across America," tweeted Spectator editor Melissa Chen.
"Honest to God I read this tweet without looking at the account and thought it was a parody. But no, it's real. Yelp is really giving race hoaxers a specific tool to destroy any business they want on a whim," Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh wrote on Twitter. "This is the most insane idea I've ever heard and I hope you are sued into bankruptcy."
"Didn't think this one through, did you? You are going to be buried under lawsuits you'll never recover from, rightfully so," said Amber Smith, former deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, lawyer and founder of the Center For American Liberty, said Yelp is "weaponizing defamation," adding, "More work for me, more litigation for you."
"Hate a business? Apparently Yelp has provided you with a tool to seek revenge. Yep, no chance this atrocious idea backfires. None," said Erielle Davidson, senior policy analyst at JINSA.
Lauren Chen, host of BlazeTV's "Pseudo-Intellectual," wrote, "Yelp is introducing a 'Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert' for businesses. I say we nominate every single business that implements affirmative action hiring or promotes critical race theory for such a warning."
Several commentators responded to Yelp's announcement by sharing a 2019 Business Insider article titled, "At Yelp's Phoenix office, some insiders say a 'boy's club' atmosphere fueled racism, sexism, and a hard-partying culture — on top of regular verbal abuse from customers."
Business Insider said they spoke to nine current and former Yelp employees who worked at the company's office in Phoenix. The current and ex-employees claimed they experienced "racist comments, inappropriate conduct, bacchanalian parties, a clique-y atmosphere, failures of trust in management, and drug use in the office."
Activists attempting to damage the reputation of a business that doesn't subscribe to their own ideologies is a tactic that has been previously exploited. As TheBlaze reported in August, an activist group threatened Louisville business owners with possible repercussions, including negative reviews on social media, if they don't satisfy their list of demands.
Demands included requiring diversity and inclusion training for all staff members on a biannual basis, purchasing a minimum of 23% inventory from black retailers or make a recurring monthly donation of 1.5% of net sales to a local Black nonprofit or organization, and display a visible sign that increases awareness and shows support for the reparations movement.
An activist group established a "Social Justice Rating System," where businesses are given a grade for how many of the demands they submit to. The organization gives businesses a sort of social credit score, "Ally," "Complicit," and "Failed."
If businesses do not comply with the demands, protesters would respond by launching negative reviews and writing disparaging social media posts about the businesses.
Fernando Martinez, a Cuban immigrant who owns a restaurant in Louisville, said activists were employing "mafia tactics" to intimidate business owners into social justice.