Last week, it was announced that “New Yorkers will be required to show either the state’s ‘Excelsior Pass,’ the city’s new vaccine pass or Center for Disease Control’s paper vaccine card, as proof of vaccination” according to the New York Post. Additionally, proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not be adequate. Individuals must consent to one of the controversial vaccines that have not been fully approved by the FDA in order to engage in everyday activities such as exercising indoors, eating inside a restaurant, or visiting a museum or concert venue.
Many conservatives have expressed outrage at the news. Charlie Kirk said this would create “a new segregated class of Americans” akin to “Medical Apartheid” and asked, “How is this legal?” Donald Trump Jr. said that “Democrats and the media want a two-tiered society where millions of law-abiding Americans are segregated and discriminated against” and compared the move to “fascism”. Greg Kelly, the popular Newsmax TV host, called de Blasio an “Anti-Semite” and “lame duck” who is “striving for relevance by going all ‘FRANCE’ on vaccination cards’”.
Now, in what can only be described as disturbing, Yelp, the popular restaurant review and reservation app is now giving users the option to access two new attributes: “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated.”
As if restaurants are not already struggling to survive post-COVID, Yelp will now give users a reason to not patronize a specific restaurant because they don’t require vaccine passports or don’t force their workers to be injected with an emergency FDA-approved vaccine.
The new option available to Yelp users can be found on Yelp’s blog site:
With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID Delta variant, we’re seeing an increasing number of businesses implement new safety measures to protect their employees and communities. To help consumers understand how a business is currently operating as pandemic guidelines continue to evolve, today, Yelp is announcing two new, free attributes – “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated.” Users will be able to filter by these attributes when searching for local businesses on Yelp and will easily see “Proof of vaccination required” indicated on restaurant, food and nightlife businesses in search results.
To help protect businesses that may experience backlash for their vaccination policies, we are proactively monitoring Yelp pages of businesses that activate these attributes. This is one of the significant measures Yelp takes to maintain the integrity and quality of the content on our platform.
In their blog post, Yelp explains that they made the decision to add these two new identifying factors to help protect businesses from “review bombing,” or negative reviews from customers over their stance on COVID.
Yelp’s Content Guidelines require that all reviews be based on a first-hand consumer experience. However, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a rise in reviews focused on people’s stance on COVID vaccinations rather than their actual experience with the business. When a business gains public attention, people often come to Yelp to express their views on the matter. Mitigating against these “review bombing” events has become a significant issue for online review platforms, which is why Yelp has heavily invested to address this phenomenon for years through our Consumer Alerts program.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve placed Unusual Activity Alerts on a Yelp page when we uncover an influx of activity in response to a business gaining public attention for their stance on COVID health and safety practices — including requiring vaccinations for employees and/or customers. In fact, since January 2021, we’ve placed more than 100 Unusual Activity Alerts on Yelp pages related to these incidents, which has resulted in the removal of nearly 4,500 reviews for violating our content policies.
Yelp explains how they shut down free speech on their site, as they admit to proactively shutting down unfavorable comments by users. They use their launch of identifying “black-owned” or “LGBT-owned” businesses on their app as an example of how they actively “thwart and remove harmful reviews” from users of their app.
Protecting Businesses from “Review Bombing”
For businesses that activate “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated” on their Yelp page, we are putting protective measures in place to proactively safeguard them from reviews that primarily criticize the COVID health and safety measures they enforce. We put a similar system in place when we launched our Black-owned attribute in June 2020, and followed the same process for our other identity attributes, such as Latinx-owned, Asian-owned, and LGBTQ-owned. By proactively monitoring business pages that activated these identity attributes for any hateful, racist or other harmful content that violates our Content Guidelines, we thwarted and removed nearly 400 reviews for containing harmful content.
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen incidents of “review bombing” increase around the health and safety precautions businesses implement. Reviews from customers that criticize a business’s vaccination requirements violate our special COVID Content Guidelines, which were introduced in March 2020 to protect businesses from reputational harm related to the pandemic. In 2021, we’ve removed nearly 8,000 reviews for violating these guidelines. Both consumers and businesses can report reviews that “represent an extraordinary circumstance (e.g. COVID-19, media-fueled)” by following these steps. A member of our User Operations team investigates each flagged review and, if it’s found to be in violation of our policies, removes it from our platform.