Yelp is really, really adamant that it doesn't manipulate reviews based on whether a business advertises or not. In an effort to convince users of its innocence, the company has dedicated an entire FAQ page on its website to the cause. Previously, restaurants have accused the company of removing positive reviews from their business' page if they did not pay for advertising. Others have alleged that reps for Yelp have contacted them to ask for payment; in exchange the company promised to hide or delete negative reviews. Many even filed class action lawsuits, but earlier this month the cases were dismissed by the U.S Court of Appeals which found "no extortion or wrong doing by Yelp."
Yelp's FAQ page proclaims at the the top, "Money doesn't buy anything but ads" and then goes on to deny that advertisers get higher ratings, negative reviews removed, and more positive reviews recommended. Yelp adds, "Advertisers get ads. Period." The page also encourages readers to check out an "independent academic study (not commissioned or paid for by Yelp" that found that "advertising plays no role in how review are recommended on Yelp." The page also points readers to links about courts "repeatedly" dismissing lawsuits from "conspiracy theorists." To really drive the point home, the company even asks readers to "prove it" to themselves through a test — though the test, which shows that some advertisers have negative reviews, doesn't actually prove anything.
While the company may not currently manipulate reviews based on advertising money, a court recently ruled that legally, Yelp is still free to do so in the future.