co Should Fake Reviews Be Illegal? |

Yelp has made a business model out of allowing people to post online reviews of businesses. But many of those reviews could be fake. In fact, it’s real easy to create a fake profile or post a fake review of a business anonymously, and Yelp doesn’t seem to be interested in changing that.

A recent case in Virginia resulted in the court ordering Yelp to turn over the names of seven anonymous reviewers.

This is interesting in a number of ways. Yelp could appeal. If they win, they’ll likely still lose – in the court of public opinion. Most business owners get the jitters at the thought of fake anonymous reviews, as they should. The balancing act is protecting the right of business owners to manage their reputations free from anonymous defamation and the right of consumers to post legitimate reviews of businesses they like and don’t like. The challenge for Yelp is to figure out how to allow legitimate reviews while discouraging fake reviews that don’t help customers or businesses.

Fake reviews are destructive of trust. If consumers can’t trust the review, then they can’t trust the place where the review is published.

What’s your take on fake reviews? Should they be illegal, or should Yelp discourage them in some way? If so, how? What is your suggestion for handling fake reviews of businesses online?