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Online review platform changes policy to remove businesses accused of anti-LGBTQ bias

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Yelp, the San Francisco-based online review platform, said on Friday that it will mark its Business Reviews pages with the names of local businesses accused of engaging in hateful behavior toward their customers.

Yelp said that its changes, which were announced by founder Jeremy Stoppelman, are designed to make the platform “more inclusive” and better protect its members. The company acknowledged that they would not “truly” be a deterrent to those who may engage in such behavior because “corporations choose to have their names” on Yelp’s platform and will “probably never leave Yelp.”

The decision to mark offending businesses’ pages with their names is being lauded by advocates who have criticized the company for not doing enough to protect its community, and criticized others for, in their opinion, not doing enough to protect the community.

“I appreciate that a tremendous amount of research went into this decision and I certainly believe it is the right thing to do,” Rosalind Saville, an equity analyst at Mckinsey & Co. and one of the founders of the Bay Area Human Rights Commission, told The Times.

Yelp had so far not taken a stand against businesses accused of discriminatory practices. Companies accused of racist practices in public complaints have their reviews marked as “hateful,” a practice that advocates for the disabled and women in tech have decried as historically racist. When the discrimination lawsuits brought against Silicon Valley companies like Twitter and Google were examined, many of those companies did not publicly address the allegations against them in their policy, company and public response to the complaints.

Yelp acknowledged that the changes are temporary and subject to change.

“We still will be reviewing results to make sure our implementation was successful,” said Shannon Stubo, a company spokeswoman.

“While we are promising this change now, we do anticipate making revisions to it as we continue to evaluate the changes we’ve made,” she said.

Yelp has been criticized by some, including the Representation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Facebook, which recently launched a service that lets deaf people ask for business reviews on the platform. Facebook, which has been criticized for having some information on businesses marked hateful, had not replied to a request for comment at the time of publication.

“The final stages of testing showed that this was a solid business model and would be beneficial to ensure we don’t have biased reviews,” said Hooke A. Wright, Facebook’s director of accessibility, in an August Facebook post.

Caroline Adams, spokeswoman for Bay Area Human Rights Commission, said it had a “warm welcome” for Yelp’s policy change.

“The inclusion of business names is a really meaningful step forward,” she said. “This is something that businesses, particularly small ones, often had a hard time navigating without the ability to take out their names in public complaints, and certainly the commission has seen an uptick in the number of business owners contacting us.”

This post has been updated to include comments from Yelp.

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