Local business review site Yelp said today it is taking steps to increase transparency about how user reviews are presented to consumers.
The move comes amid at least three lawsuits alleging that Yelp manipulates reviews based on whether a company advertises with the site.
Beginning today, anyone who wants to see which reviews have been identified by Yelp’s automated review filter will be able to do so via a link to a separate page containing that content. The company is also dropping its "Favorite Review" feature that has been part of its advertising for the past four years.
"Today we’ve taken steps to make it even more clear that Yelp treats review content equally for advertisers and non-advertisers alike and that there is no relationship between advertising and a business’ reviews on Yelp," said Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s chief executive officer and co-founder.
"While Yelp is helping millions of consumers find millions of great local businesses each month — and consumer traffic and business advertisers continue to reach new highs — myths have persisted about how review content is displayed on Yelp."
Yelp said the removal of its "Favorite Review" feature will make it more clear that reviews on the site are separate from advertising. Instead advertisers will be able to post a video to their Yelp pages.
The company said it will continue to work on ways to combat fake or malicious reviews and will continue to develop the review filter to keep ahead of spammers.