Businesses Sue Yelp for Shakedowns Claim site pressured them to advertise to squash bad reviews By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Mar 19, 2010 8:10 AM CDT 8 comments Comments This image shows a Yelp web site on a computer screen in Los Angeles Thursday March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) (Newser) – A barrage of small businesses are suing Yelp, saying it pressured them to advertise in order to quash negative reviews. Since late February, at least three lawsuits seeking class action status have been filed against the site by a dozen companies, the AP reports. Yelp denies wrongdoing, saying that reviews might appear or disappear thanks to automated systems designed to filter out untrustworthy posts. But the plaintiffs say that Yelp sales representatives explicitly told them that Yelp would manipulate reviews if they advertised. “The attitude that was conveyed was, ‘You really need to do this for your business,’” says the owner of an appliance service business in California. When he declined, he says positive reviews for his company disappeared.