Do We Need Help Using Yelp? Regulating Advertising on Mediated Reputation Systems
Yelp, Angie’s List, Avvo, and similar entities enable consumers to access an incredibly useful trove of information about peer experiences with businesses and their goods and services. These “mediated reputation systems,” gatherers and disseminators of consumer peer opinions, are more trusted by consumers than traditional commercial channels. They are omnipresent, carried everywhere on mobile devices, and used by consumers ready to transact.
Though this information is valuable, a troubling conflict emerges in its presentation. Most of these reputation platforms rely heavily on advertising sales to support their business models. This reliance compels these entities to display persuasive advertising right along with their presentation of authentic peer information. Consumers expecting to access this authentic peer information must also confront a persuasive message. The revenue lifeblood for these platforms comes from the very businesses under peer review.
This Article argues that the power of peer information provides an exceptionally credible context for persuasive advertising. Accordingly, advertising on reputation platforms should trigger more rigorous regulation in the form of disclosure requirements and prioritized enforcement.