Yelp accused of extortion

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A handful of business owners recently filed a class-action lawsuit against user-review site Yelp. The companies accuse the site of offering to remove negative reviews for advertising fees. In a statement, Yelp denied the allegations.

Yesterday, Yelp's CEO Jeremy Stoppelman blogged that the charges are "beyond ludicrous" conspiracy theories.

Rumors of pay-for play have dodged the site for more than a year now. One possible reason: Say a restaurant owner asks its patrons to write positive reviews on the site by sending out an e-mail to loyal customers. Dozens of customers might post positive reviews based on genuine experiences within a day of receiving the e-mail. But Yelp's computers are set up to detect any blast of positive reviews and to treat those reviews as likely spam, meaning that it sometimes accidentally deletes those accurate reviews. Business owners may feel that Yelp is working them over as a result.

I guess a court will decide whether the lawsuit, which says that a Yelp salesperson explicitly pushed an advertising deal on a business owner with a promise to push bad reviews out of sight.

The court filing against Yelp (opens as a PDF)

Site with more info on the class-action lawsuit

Yelp's official response

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