Last updated: 05:31 PM ET, Sun March 22 2015

Report: Crowdfunded Documentary to Lambast Yelp’s Alleged Business Practices

Travel Technology | Michael Isenbek | March 22, 2015

Report: Crowdfunded Documentary to Lambast Yelp’s Alleged Business Practices

Image courtesy of Thinkstock/Kirill Sinani

Is Yelp forcing businesses to pay for positive reviews? According to the crowdfunded investigative film “Billion Dollar Bully,” this is indeed the case, according to a Yahoo report.

Called “a documentary on marketing giant Yelp’s $3.6 billion racket against small business owners,” on the Prost Productions Kickstarter page, the piece of cinema does once again bring up the question of the validity of Yelp’s reviews. A court has ruled that they have a right to filter and charge for reviews, but “Billion Dollar Bully” claims they go a step further.

The trailer for the film conveys a series of serious accusations. “Every one of the clients had been threatened with harm if they didn’t pay money,” said an attorney.

“It is a racket…. They really forcibly make you pay for their services or you get more negative reviews and it negatively affects your business,” according to a business owner.

These tactics were “invented in Sicily around the 1930s,” (a reference to the Mafia) accused a restaurateur, who noticed missing positive reviews, and an increased number of negative reviews after he refused to advertise with Yelp.

The trailer also asked Yelp users if they knew about the filtering of results, which most of them did not.

Yelp made a strong statement condemning these accusations, with a representative telling, “The director has a conflict of interest, as she has a history of trying to mislead consumers on Yelp. There is no merit to the claims they appear to highlight, which have been repeatedly dismissed by courts of law, investigated by government regulators, including the FTC, and disproven by academic study.”

As of Sunday evening, the documentary has raised almost $37,000 toward its $60,000 goal.

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