Yelp is trying to defend the rights of its users to write snarky reviews on the website. According to Yelp's blog, Yelpers have "broad protections" under the First Amendment, but many businesses and "powerful interest groups" create Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) to "silence their critics." Yelp notes that users in nearly half country do not have protections against SLAPPs, which it says can shut down their abilities to trash restaurants freely.
So Yelp is throwing its (possibly multi-billion dollar) weight behind two pieces of Federal legislations that were recently introduced. Called called the "Speak Free Act of 2015" and the "Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015," the bills create "procedures to safeguard free speech for all Americans," regardless of what state they live in. The Speak Free Act lets federal courts determine whether or not a lawsuit is a SLAPP that targets free speech, and the Consumer Review Freedom act will eliminate clauses in consumer contracts that make it illegal for consumers to speak negatively about a business. Plus it will create "penalties for businesses that try to push these unlawful provisions on their customers."
While the protection of free speech is very important, negative Yelp reviews can have harmful impacts on a business. In 2013, it was found that there nearly 16 percent of Yelp reviews are fake, and the ones that are phony tend to be more extreme.