This week, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that nineteen companies agreed to stop writing fake Yelp reviews and pay over $350,000 of fines.
"Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing," Schneiderman said. "This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution. And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: "Astroturfing" is the 21st century's version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it."
Today, Yelp is gloating about its win in a blog post, and telling those writing fake reviews that there's more where that came from.
"We think it’s great the New York Attorney General took action against these businesses that try to mislead consumers. In fact, we helped him," writes Yelp Senior Litigation Counsel Aaron Schur. "Because Yelp uses sophisticated software to filter reviews and weed out less reliable ones, we identify -- and take action against -- concerted campaigns to game the system quite frequently. As a result, we were able to give the NY AG’s office some solid leads on which businesses to go after."
"And we have more," he adds. "We would love to work with law enforcement officials in other states to crack down on this unethical practice."
A study about Yelp reviews has been getting a lot of attention today after finding that a fifth of Yelp restaurant reviews are fake. The story hit the front page of reddit, attracting thousands of comments including some interesting ones from people claiming to be ex-employees of the company.
Meanwhile, Yelp doesn't seem to mind fictional characters posting reviews on pages for fictional restaurants on the site.