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Attention Business Owners: Yelp Will Now Call You Out for Being Racist

As critical conversations about systemic racism in America continue, Yelp is sending a notable message to business owners on its popular review site.

Yelp said yesterday it was rolling out new alert features to make consumers aware of alleged racist behavior. If moderators notice an unusual uptick in activity on a particular page, they will investigate and temporarily disable content.

Yelp said it would use a “public attention alert” if someone associated with a business was accused of, or the target of, racist behavior.

A more strongly-worded notification, “business accused of racist behavior alert” would be employed “when there’s resounding evidence of egregious, racist actions from a business owner or employee, such as using overly racist slurs or symbols.” The second alert would also feature links to news stories from credible outlets, Yelp said.

“At Yelp, we value diversity, inclusion and belonging, both internally and on our platform, which means we have a zero tolerance policy to racism,” wrote Noorie Malik, VP of user operations, in a blog post. “We know these values are important to our users and now more than ever, consumers are increasingly conscious of the types of businesses they patronize and support.”

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Yelp cited some recent data to illustrate the way people are supporting businesses that mesh with their values. This summer, the platform saw reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses spike 617%. During the same period, reviews specifically noting that a company was women-owned increased by 114%.

There’s no question that Yelp can be a significant factor in the success, or demise, of a business.

In the case of longtime Boston-based independent retailer The Tannery, eye-opening reviews from Yelp users revealed alleged racism and other unfair behavior.

The store — which filed for bankruptcy in 2017 — faced another legal battle a year later when The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office filed suit against owner Sam Hassan. The suit alleged that Hassan discriminated against shoppers based on their race, national origin and immigration status — a violation of the state’s Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act.

In 2019, The Tannery closed its doors permanently after 40 years.

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