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Five ways Yelp is stamping out fake reviews



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Renée Frojo
Reporter- San Francisco Business Times

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While the social world of online commerce has helped consumers decide on what to buy and where to spend based on other people’s experiences, it also has led to an increase of fake advertising in the form of bogus reviews — and it’s only getting worse.

Studies and surveys have shown that by next year, 15 percent of online reviews will be fake.

While state legislators in New York on Monday cracked down on these online phonies — starting with a $350,000 fine on 19 fake review companies issued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — it’s unclear whether increased scrutiny will solve the problem.

This type of phony advertising plagues a number of local online review sites, like Google and CitySearch. With more than 108 million unique visitors a month, San Francisco-based Yelp is one of the largest and likely most susceptible to the problem.

Aaron Schur, senior litigation council for Yelp, acknowledged that the problem of fake reviews has increased with the number and prominence of review sites. While the company has been battling the problem since it started, it still struggles to identify and stamp out all the phonies.

Schur told the Business Times what the company is doing about it and what consumers should expect:

Bogus online reviews are nothing new, but it seems the problem is getting worse. Is the number of dishonest reviews increasing?

As more and more people understand the great value of online reviews as a consumer resource, unfortunately there is also an increase in the number of people out there looking to game the system. It is something that Yelp has been aware of since day one and the reason why we developed sophisticated review quality software — to protect both consumers and business owners from potentially unreliable reviews.

Renée Frojo covers hospitality, restaurants, retail and nonprofits for the San Francisco Business Times.

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