Yelp has been accused over the years of everything from aggressive advertising to extortion by business owners across America. The website boasts 108 million monthly visitors and a total of 42 million reviews posted to date. Yelp, Inc. held a panel at the Pantages Theatre in North Hollywood this past Tuesday as part of a Nationwide series of town hall events. Yelp plans to visit 22 of the United State’s major cities this year.

Dozens of business owners showed up for the event, but while participants in the panel touted Yelp’s services and advertising benefits, the audience wasn’t too keen on the remarks. The question-and-answer session turned into a complete slam on what is perceived as a deliberate attack on business owners by Yelp.

Some are suspicious that Yelp filters positive reviews based on how much money a business owner pays them in advertising. Vintage clothing shop owner Reiko Roberts, stated that when she rejected a proposal to buy ads from Yelp’s sales team, all of her positive reviews were sent to the bottom and all of her negative reviews were moved to the top. Of course, it’s impossible to substantiate these accusations, but there was enough discontent in this audience of entrepreneurs to suggest that all is not what it seems.

Yelp currently employs a practice of “filtering” reviews that they suspect to be fake or unreliable. While Yelp claims that this filtering process is based on an objective algorithm, there is still room for subjective influence. The next town hall meeting in West Los Angeles is scheduled for November, but it’s questionable how productive this meeting will be.

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