Google has explained how it keeps user reviews on Google Maps free from “abuse” in a new blog post, that also mentions moderating comments from people criticizing businesses for forcing masks or vaccine passports.
Meanwhile, Yelp also admitted removing tens of thousands of reviews in 2021 for violating its policies and similarly removed reviews that mentioned vaccine passports.
Sites that allow user reviews such as Yelp and Google Maps have updated their moderation policies because some businesses have been hit with bad reviews for implementing Covid-related measures.
In the blog post, Google said that Maps has “strict content policies to make sure reviews are based on real-world experiences and to keep irrelevant and offensive comments off of Google Business Profiles.”
The company further explained: “As the world evolves, so do our policies and protections. This helps us guard places and businesses from violative and off-topic content when there's potential for them to be targeted for abuse. For instance, when governments and businesses started requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccine before entering certain places, we put extra protections in place to remove Google reviews that criticize a business for its health and safety policies…”
Google explained that all reviews posted on Maps are first checked by an automated system, which has been trained on Google's content guidelines to flag “misleading” and “abusive” reviews. Aside from individual reviews, the system knows to check patterns, such as a sudden increase in five or one-star reviews.
“Machines are our first line of defense because they're good at identifying patterns. These patterns often immediately help our machines determine if the content is legitimate, and the vast majority of fake and fraudulent content is removed before anyone actually sees it,” the post reads.