It’s been 24 years since Internet companies were declared off-the-hook for the behavior of their users. That may change, and soon.

(Cross posted from Signal360)

In a sweeping talk at the Association of National Advertisers conference last month, P&G Chief Brand Officer (and ANA Chair) Marc Pritchard laid out a five-step plan to address systemic problems in the marketing and media industries. Each step addresses serious challenges and opportunities — in diversity, inequality, and creative and business practices. But perhaps no step is more challenging — and crucial — than Pritchard’s Step Four: Eliminating all harmful content online. 

“There is still too much harmful, hateful, denigrating, and discriminatory content and commentary in too many digital sites, channels, and feeds,” Pritchard said. “There is no place for this type of content.”

While nearly everyone agrees with the idea of eliminating harmful content, key actors across the digital media industry seem paralyzed when it comes to how best to take action on the problem. What’s really going on? To understand, we must dive into the early formation of the Internet industry in the United States, and the role the First Amendment plays — to this day — in shaping an increasingly contentious debate on how to regulate digital speech. 

But, First, a Bit of History

When the Internet was in its early stages as a commercial medium more than 25 years ago, a moral panic erupted in the United States following the publication of a Time magazine cover story Titled “Cyberporn” and featuring a terrified child staring aghast into the blue light of a computer monitor, the story claimed — falsely, as it turned out — that the majority of images on the then-novel medium consisted of pornography. 

Internet service providers were to be treated like the phone company … not held responsible for the speech of their customers.

Congress quickly took up the cause of cleaning up the Internet and passed the 

COVID-19 Is Changing Consumer Behavior At The Point-Of-Sale

As shelter-in-place orders spread across the US in mid-March, cash was already coming under fire as a potential vehicle for spreading COVID-19. Media articles and nightly news reports quickly began targeting the unsanitary aspects of physical currency, and many merchants started affixing signs to their storefronts or checkouts encouraging the use of cards, and in some cases outright banning cash. 

These developments, paired with growing concerns about physical contact and contagions, have helped drive a noticeable decline in cash utilization, according to a Q3 2020 US consumer survey fielded by 451 Research, which is part of S&P Global Market Intelligence. The survey revealed that more than two in five consumers are using cash less often since the COVID-19 outbreak started. The decline is strongest for respondents with a household income above $150,000 and those belonging to Gen X (38-53 years old), where 64% and 54% have decreased their usage, respectively.

Cash use has suffered as consumers have consciously and subconsciously looked to adhere to three key priorities while in-store:

  1. Limit what they’re coming into contact with (e.g., point of sale terminals, cash).
  2. Minimize time spent in close proximity to other people (e.g., cashiers).
  3. Avoid events that increase overall shopping time (e.g., lines, making change).

Contactless payments help address each of these concerns at checkout by enabling a more efficient and hygienic payment experience. This is important because, at least in the US, contactless has long been characterized as a solution in search of a problem.

Contactless payment adoption and usage is increasing

451’s survey has revealed two key contactless trends that have emerged from the pandemic. The first is new user activation. Many consumers that never saw a reason to use contactless before tried it for the first time, presumably given the hygienic and social-distancing benefits of tap-to-pay. More than

Yelp will begin flagging businesses with “racist behavior”

“Communities have always turned to Yelp in reaction to current events at the local level. As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions,” Malik wrote.

But some people are concerned that the Yelp label could be misused and incorrectly ostracize businesses who may not deserve it.

“The problem with this is that people may use it to cancel businesses unjustifiably,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the news Friday.

Yelp said it has a system in place to try to prevent that from happening. The company’s user operations team already investigates and disables reviews or puts alerts on business pages if it finds that the business is seeing a huge uptick in reviews in response to news reports, rather than from people who have actually visited. Those are in place to let people know that the business is getting a lot of public attention, and recent reviews might not be from firsthand experience.

The new “Business Accused of Racist Behavior” alert takes that one step further by putting the warning on business pages “when there’s resounding evidence of egregious, racist actions from a business owner or employee,” Malik said in a statement. In that case, Yelp will link to a news article from a “credible media outlet” that explains the issue.

Yelp has faced allegations in the past that it favors positive reviews for advertisers, which it has denied. In addition, some restaurant owners have already long harbored animosity toward Yelp, where they say a few bad reviews can affect their bottom lines. A 2011 Harvard Business School study found that the difference between a 3-star rating

Yelp Will Add Racist Behavior Tags to Business Pages

Illustration for article titled Yelp Will Now Advise Customers When a Business Is Racist Enough to Land in the News

Screenshot: Yelp

Yelp will now warn customers that they’re looking at a “business accused of racist behavior”—just so long as it’s been racist enough to warrant a mention in the news.

The review platform announced in a blog post Thursday that it will place an alert on a business page when a business “gains public attention” such as a news article documenting “egregious, racist actions from a business owner or employee, such as using overtly racist language or symbols.” Previously, Yelp implemented a “Public Attention Alert” feature that informed visitors that a business may be at the center of a controversy involving racism, but that alert didn’t specify whether the business was the source of the bigoted behavior or the target.

“As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions,” VP of user operations Noorie Malik wrote in the post. “Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident.”

That’s a pretty high bar for restricting the page—reporters aren’t out there running down every business flying a Confederate flag. Yelp also said it was hoping to rein in review-bombing, in which large numbers of users who may have no personal experience with a business leave negative reviews in response to a well-publicized incident. The new version of the popup tells users that while Yelp believes racism is “reprehensible

Yelp Is Going To Start Flagging Restaurants That Have Been Accused Of Racist Behavior On Its App

Photo credit: Yelp
Photo credit: Yelp

From Delish

Yelp announced in a blog post yesterday that it would begin flagging businesses that have been accused of racially charged behavior on the app. Consumer alerts are already placed on businesses that see an influx of reviews based on news coverage or social media rather than first hand experience, and the new alert will specify when the allegations are related to racist behavior.

“At Yelp, we value diversity, inclusion and belonging, both internally and on our platform, which means we have a zero tolerance policy to racism. We know these values are important to our users and now more than ever, consumers are increasingly conscious of the types of businesses they patronize and support,” the brand said in the site blog post.

In order to flag these situations while also maintaining the integrity of the app, businesses that are associated with someone who has been accused of racist behavior, or that have been the target of racist behavior will get a new alert badge on the app. It will read “Business Accused of Racist Behavior” with a link to a credible news source explaining the situation.

Yelp’s platform encourages people to share their personal, first hand experiences online, so when an influx of reviews comes as a result of media coverage it flags this so individuals know not all of the reviews are based on customer experiences. According to Yelp: “This policy is critical to mitigating fake reviews and maintaining the integrity of content on our platform. We don’t allow people to leave reviews based on media reports because it can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating.”

This change in the app comes as a way to continue to provide customers with the most accurate reviews of restaurants so they can safely down