Yelp Lawsuit Update: Yelp Changes the Game

For those of you keeping track, we've been following (mostly via SFoodie) the opening-round fencing between massive customer review website Yelp and the class action lawsuit being leveled against them by a bunch of retailers and restaurant owners who claim to have been strong-armed by the company into buying advertising on the site with threats of bad reviews or promises of having existing bad reviews buried.

Yesterday, Yelp made a minor concession in the battle by agreeing to change one key feature of the site's management: the "Favorite Review." On SFoodie, John Birdsall wrote:

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman announced the user review giant would drop the "Favorite Review" feature and let readers see the reviews that would otherwise have been filtered out by its automated review filter. "Now you can take a look at any business listing on Yelp and see for yourself the work the review filter has done behind the scenes," Stoppelman wrote on the Yelp blog. "Perhaps helping to protect one business from malicious reviews that might stem from a competitor."

Unfortunately, while this has been seen by the law-dogs from Miami and San Diego who filed the class action suit as a "first step in the right direction," it fails to address the nut of the complaint by the plaintiffs: the alleged blackmail engaged in by Yelp, compelling them to buy advertising in order to stop negative reviews from being given greater visibility on the page.

You can check out the new moves by Yelp as reported by TechCrunch (who have also been following this case closely) by clicking through to their piece on yesterday's development, or check out Birdsall's whole column on SFoodie right here. And don't for a minute think that this battle is over now that Yelp has backed down a step.

On the interwebs, this thing is just starting to heat up.

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