Yelp review trolling is a big part of slactivism — that special kind of activism you can carry out from your couch and laptop, without even painting a sign, making a phone call, or googling your senator’s email address. It’s a quick way to tell massive numbers of people how you feel about something a company has done or said, and if enough others agree with you, your drop-in-the-bucket review is part of a deluge that drags the company’s rating down to near-nothing. In the wake of the Memories Pizza fiasco, though, some Yelp users fear that small power may be fading.
Memories Pizza quick review, in case you thought it was an elaborate April Fool’s joke: while the nation debated Indiana’s new religious freedom laws, a pizza shop owner announced on camera that she would refuse to cater a gay wedding, if ever an Indiana same-sex couple decided they wanted pizza for their wedding dinner. The shop’s Facebook page and online reviews, particularly their Yelp reviews, were deluged with messages decrying the anti-gay stance. A fake Memories Pizza website was created, and by close of day, the restaurant had closed.
The Yelp review trolling, however, may have been less lasting than armchair advocates hoped: users report that Yelp is now removing hundreds of reviews from the Memories Pizza page. (There are still, as of this posting, nearly a thousand from April 1st and 2nd alone, but many others have disappeared.)
Yelp has a page of Content Guidelines that are used in determining what reviews to remove. It includes this point:
Relevance: Please make sure your contributions are relevant and appropriate to the forum. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.
Of course, a willingness to turn away customers based on sexuality is arguably part of the consumer experience, but in this case, it’s not a turning-away that’s likely to ever come up in actual practice. These reviews also aren’t (presumably) from customers who have had a bad experience, but from people who are outraged at a distance. That’s not to say their outrage isn’t legitimate — it’s just not part of what Yelp is actually inviting consumers to review.
TELL US: Have you ever engaged in Yelp review trolling? Is it dishonest for Yelp to remove reviews, or a legitimate protection of their review model?