Websites Change Their Policies Amid Tensions in the U.S.

With tensions in the U.S. growing over racial issues and the upcoming election, both Facebook and Yelp are adjusting their policies and practices.

Yelp announced that it would allow its users to flag businesses for “overtly racist actions.” It will place an alert on an establishment’s page when the business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, including the use of racist language or symbols.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

According to The New York Times, the alert will link to a credible media outlet to demonstrate that there is “resounding evidence” for the allegations. Yelp has yet to elaborate on which news organizations it considers to be credible or how it defines “resounding evidence.”

The announcement has raised questions about how Yelp will enforce this new policy in a manner that will prevent manipulation. Fake reviews have plagued yelp in the past. Last year, the company temporarily disabled reviews on nearly 600 pages because of fake review activity.

This is not the first time Yelp has gotten involved in social justice issues. In 2017, the company added a feature to filter results by the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms.

Facebook is also altering its business practices in light of growing concerns over the impending U.S. election.

The company announced that it would indefinitely suspend all political and social-issue advertising in the U.S. after the polls close Nov. 3. It is the company’s most recent move to combat potential confusion and abuse related to the election.

The announcement comes on the tail of last month’s decision to bar new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day and flag any candidates’ premature claims of victory.

“Getting the final election results this year may take longer than previous elections due to the pandemic and more people voting by mail. So we’re preparing a range of policies and products to keep people informed and prevent the spread of misinformation,” Facebook announced on its blog.

The company has laid out plans for immediately following the election to direct users of Facebook and Instagram to the Voting Information Center for more information about the vote-counting process. If a candidate claims victory before the race is officially called, the company will add more specific information in the notifications that counting is still in progress and no winner has been determined.

Facebook is also making an effort to mitigate poll watching tactics. When it is made aware of coordinated interference efforts, it will remove calls for people to engage in poll-watching when those calls use militarized language or suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters.

The move comes after civil-rights activists put pressure on Facebook in response to comments made by Donald Trump Jr. in which he called on supporters to join “ARMY FOR TRUMP’s election security operation.”

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