When Valencia Love payed R. Kelly’s bond to get the accused pedophile, sex trafficker, and R & B singer out of jail last week, she undoubtedly expected some blowback from the media. She may not have expected her restaurant’s Yelp page would be overtaken by an angry public, outraged over her decision to help Kelly get out of jail while facing 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
After news broke that Love forked over $100,000 to get Kelly out on bond, identifying herself as a “friend” of Kelly’s on the application, according to the Chicago Sun Times, it didn’t take people long to start Googling Love–and once they discovered she had a restaurant, they took to Yelp to express their displeasure. Soon, the Yelp page for Love on the Blu on Chicago’s Southside has been inundated with comments like, “The owner supports a pedophile…I would never support such a place,” Eater Chicago reported. Another commenter wrote: “I really don’t need to frequent a restaurant whose owner is OK with bailing out R Kelly…Bad, bad move, lady.”
Whenever news spills over onto restaurant’s Yelp pages, like when Starbucks had two patrons kicked out and arrested for being black, Yelp’s “active cleanup” policy kicks into effect. Now, when you visit Love on the Blue’s Yelp page, there’s an “unusual activity alert” and a banner that reads “this business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports.” The Yelp Support team starts monitoring the page and deleting all the comments that pertain to R. Kelly, not the restaurant’s allegedly soggy French toast.
“Many people come to Yelp to share their views about the news,” a Yelp spokesperson told Fast Company in an email. “Media-fueled reviews typically violate our Content Guidelines, one of which deals with relevance. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience. Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news. Our user support team ultimately removes reviews that violate these guidelines.”
The active cleanup will stay in effect until people stop taking out their frustration on the restaurant’s Yelp page and put it where it really belongs–on a system that allowed R. Kelly to continue his (alleged) crimes for years with no repercussions until now.