Monday, January 13, 2014

Anonymity on Yelp

Yelp.com, a website where users can review businesses, restaurants, and services, is popular among American web users. Typically the website is the go-to place for finding new places to eat, reviewing businesses and home services, and for netizens to vent their frustration on bad dining experiences to the online public.

However, after a recent court case which found that many negative reviews are posted by users who were not real customers of a service, the US judicial system has ruled that users who post negative reviews must be identified. This news runs parallel to initiatives taken by the Chinese government to identify online netizens by requiring real-name registration for use on popular websites, social media networks, and web forums.

Posting fake or falsifying information on Yelp can be immensely damaging to small business owners. Yelp reviewers are quick to point out poor service, poor products, and bad dining experiences. Bad reviews (and poor media attention on a popular TV program) led to the closure of one American bakery. Similarly, other shops have seen negative hits taken on Yelp after their refusal to serve the LGBT community (although the negative reviews were later taken down).

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