Sandy Banks' columns rehash claims that Yelp manipulates consumer reviews to reward advertisers and punish non-advertisers. We don't.
This view can stem from Yelp's efforts to protect the usefulness of content on our site. We employ automated software to filter the millions of user-submitted reviews to showcase the most reliable and helpful ones. The need for and effectiveness of our system were demonstrated when it was noted by Businessweek that only Yelp filtered out 200 fake reviews submitted to various review sites by a business owner seeking to boost his rating.
There are thousands of Yelp advertisers with negative reviews on their listing. I suspect if Yelp provided advertisers with the ability to delete those reviews, they would. But we don't.
Similarly, one can find thousands of businesses on Yelp with four- or five-star ratings that don't advertise. They are just benefiting from positive word of mouth online.