Last week, Lena Geller wrote about crowdsourced review platforms like Google and Yelp and the impacts they’re having on small businesses—especially on restaurants— especially during the pandemic, when clients are asked to comply with mask mandates and other mild inconveniences. Our readers had many thoughts.

“Kudos to Lena Geller for her astute reporting about the online review racket,” wrote reader Howard Partner. “The restaurant misinformation promulgated by review sites like Google, YouTube and Yelp is very similar, in impact, to the political garbage hawked on Facebook and similar sites.

“The lack of responsibility and legal safeguards for behemoth websites is systematically tearing apart the remnants of the social fabric of the civilized world. These websites should be subject to the same legal and ethical restraints that newspapers and magazines are subject to, and probably even stricter restraints and potential penalties.”

“I may have missed this but as a retailer being reviewed you can pay Yelp to suppress comments and shine up your star status, which is complete crap,” wrote reader Sarah Ward. “The whole system is (potentially) rigged and consumers are being misdirected and business are suffering the consequences. Thanks for the story. It was really well written and relevant.”

On Facebook, commenter David Hewitt had this to say:

“I definitely fall into the ‘I hate yelp’ crowd, even though I have never owned a restaurant. Repeat yelp reviewers crave attention and the easiest way to get noticed is by writing hateful reviews, like the one the author admitted to writing where she wished that The Cupcake Factory had burned down. I think yelp is untrustworthy and frequented by attention seekers who will write bad reviews just to be ‘funny.’”

And Facebook commenter Aaron Averill added the following: 

“Great story! One thread the author missed is that this phenomenon of rewarding toxic behavior exists in ALL social internet communities, because attention increases with outrage. Individual people are responsible at some level but the system is ‘programming’ our reptilian reward systems.

“I was hoping the author would have an ‘a-ha’ moment to recognize her own part of this and journey to redemption but alas it never came.”

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