Yelp is making an important change to its app

Yelp has been right at the forefront as consumer reviews have evolved into an essential tool by which we make our choices. While businesses aren't always thrilled if they find themselves on the receiving end of bad reviews, on the other hand, they actively tout their Yelp stars as a marketing tool if they're up in the 4+ range.

As Black Lives Matter jumped to the forefront of every business's marketing plan last spring, long-overdue changes were being made all over, what with restaurants, products, music groups, and even states re-branding in a hurry to get rid of racist imagery that had outstayed its welcome by a century or so (and should never have been tolerated in the first place). 

While Yelp itself didn't need to re-brand since neither their name nor their logo implies anything that could remotely be construed as objectionable, they did make one significant change in how they operated. They first began placing Public Attention Alerts on the pages of any companies that had been either accused of or the target of racist behavior, but they have recently added a newer, more specific Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert. While the PAAs can be triggered simply by consumer reports, the official Yelp blog reports that each BARBA will require a link to a credible news source reporting on the racist incident.

What types of racism is Yelp calling out?

While the months following the nationwide outrage sparked by the killing of George Floyd saw a huge uptick in interest in Black-owned businesses, Yelp reviews also indicated an increase in hate speech and racism. One such business was Long Island's Tutto Pazzo, whose owner was said to have referred to BLM protestors as "animals" and "savages" during a Facebook Live rant (via Today). He appears to have changed his restaurant's name, however, and the new Yelp page for Il Posto di Joey remains alert-free (via Newsday).

Another business Yelp users have called out for racism, a Pennsylvania diner called Fred's Breakfast Club, had a long-standing racist incident that predates the current state of unrest by several years. Many Yelpers have complained of the fact that the diner displays a prominently-posted joke making fun of welfare recipients (specifically, non-English speakers of color), but apparently, the joke must have been removed because their Yelp page no longer shows any type of alert. (CBS News reports that Yelp's policy is to remove such warnings within 90 days should the problem be addressed.)

The Yelp racist alert has met with mixed reactions

When Yelp tweeted out the news of their new anti-racism alert, this announcement was not greeted with universal shouts of joy. Conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza predictably decried the move as "an inducement to false accusation and thuggery," but did pose an interesting question: "What if a bunch of people wantonly accuse @yelp of racism? Will they place a racist alert on their own company?" (Not a rhetorical question, either: according to Business Insider correspondent Rob Price, evidently both racism and sexism run rampant in Yelp's Phoenix office, but that BI report appears to have triggered no such alert.) 

Still other comments raised the possibility of "Antifa" now knowing which businesses to target. Many, however, seemed to worry that wanton accusations of racism from consumers could ruin a business that had done nothing to deserve this, something that Yelp's stated promise to include credible media reports documenting the racism was designed to prevent

Many others, however, thought this anti-racism stance was a good idea, noting incidents where BIPOC persons received a lower level of service than did Caucasian customers. One Twitter user undoubtedly spoke for countless others in his situation when he said: "The whites seems really pissed about this, but as a Black man, I wanna eat where I'm safe and not a threat. Good for Yelp."