Anti-vaxxers are destroying restaurant's ratings on Yelp

[Update 6-17-2022. A Yelp spokesperson said: "Yelp's mission is to connect consumers with great local businesses by giving them access to reliable and useful information. Consumer trust is our top priority, which is why we take significant measures to maintain the integrity and quality of the content on our platform. At Yelp, all reviews must be based on a first-hand consumer experience with the business. When a business gains public attention, consumers often come to Yelp to express their views on the news, which can artificially inflate or deflate a business's star rating.

As part of our Consumer Alerts program, Yelp has signals in place that alert our moderators if there is an unusual spike in traffic on a business's Yelp page. If warranted, our team of moderators will investigate and may temporarily disable the ability to post a review as we place an Unusual Activity Alert over the business's reviews. After activity on the business page has dramatically decreased or stopped, we will clean up the page so only first-hand consumer experiences are reflected. In 2021, more than 210 businesses received an Unusual Activity Alert for review incidents related to the pandemic, especially health and safety measures, resulting in the removal of more than 8,900 reviews.

In August 2021, Yelp announced two new searchable attributes, "Proof of vaccination required" and "All staff fully vaccinated," to help consumers understand how a business is currently operating as pandemic guidelines continued to evolve. To help protect businesses that may experience backlash for their vaccination policies, Yelp proactively monitors the Yelp pages of businesses that activate these attributes. Only businesses can activate these free attributes via their Yelp for Business account, and users can filter by these attributes on Yelp search pages.]

Bars and restaurants that won't allow unvaccinated people to go inside are getting punished by anti-vaxxers who are leaving one-star reviews on Yelp and Google, reports MIT Technology Review. And for some reason, Yelp and Google aren't doing much to fight back against the weaponization of their review portals.

These spam one-star reviews can be extremely damaging. The default mode for viewing reviews is in chronological order, from newest to oldest, which means a spam attack places fake reviews up top, making the most recent reviews that much more influential if you're the victim of a concerted campaign. 

While some companies have gotten around this issue on their own sites by verifying that reviewers are actual customers by reaching out to them via email and matching them with what they have on file, industry-leading platforms like Yelp and Google let anyone rate and review a business.