Yelp has won fans around the globe by providing a neutral platform where users can share reviews of local businesses. If a Vietnamese sandwich shop makes the best banh mi around, reviewers will rave and send more customers that way. If a kosher deli’s pickles are stale, reviewers will say as much, and other readers will steer clear.
But what if it wasn’t users, but Yelp’s own advertising team that determined the balance of — and in some cases wrote — the reviews that make up the meat of the site? Worse, what if Yelp’s advertising reps punished businesses that refused to advertise by the deleting positive reviews and promoting negative ones?