The Power, and Unforeseen Truth, of the Internet
Say these words ten years ago and what would the reaction be?
“He’s a Blogger”
“It’s good Netizenship”
“I heard on Twitter”
Today, those words are not only universally understood, the listener knows that whatever is about to follow the phrase is so important that millions have already tuned in.
And one word that’s achieving that level of authority—Yelp. There are many recent articles on Yelp’s content, star ratings, features, and the effect it can have on a business, but few have probed the boundary lines that Yelp itself imposes on reviews. Yelp describes the goal of “filtering” reviews–to make the published reviews that go into its “star” rating more reliable by filtering out “unreliable” reviews. Yelp itself explains its own policies in a simple video below. We suggest viewing it before proceeding with this article.
We’ve experimented with this new “recommended” policy and here share what we’ve learned. It’s very revealing, but not revealing in the way Yelp probably intended. The reviews Yelp’s software filters as “recommended” may, or may not, be in fact more reliable. But it turns out that Yelp’s policy about deleting, or hiding certain reviews as “not recommended’ speaks volumes more.
We’ve posted information regarding several family court professionals who we’ve become familiar with, both from personal experiences and by learning from the experience of others. Yelp’s reaction has been insightful not only about our reivews, but about the others it “removes” to “not recommended.” In other words, Yelp promotes, or “yelps,” some reviews, and swallows, or “gulps” others.
Take, for instance, Dr. Stephen Doyne—the notorious “Dean” of the San Diego Family Law industry. If you’ve viewed our site before you know that CCFC has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in the Southern District of California accusing Doyne, among many others of his family court colleagues, of criminal racketeering, fraud, and abuse of his family court clients. Our parent members have been vocal about Doyne and several others across the Internet—both good experiences and unfortunately many bad ones. Our parents have been eager to share those experiences with others who, like we were at one point—enter family court thinking it behaves like any other professional services industry—regulated by laws and professional standards.
What we learned is that family court psychologists, attorneys, and judges are not subject to ordinary professional oversight and regulation—they’s entirely virtually free from oversight by appellate courts, civil courts, professional ethics boards and disciplinary committees. We’ve written letters, reports, complaints, and campaigned to every authority with potential jurisdiction over the industry, and virtually all have taken a “hands off” attitude toward family court operations and professionals. “Family Court is a closed society” they respond. “If you have a problem, take it up with the judge.”
We learned, far to late for some, that most of the assumptions that parents carry into family court are simply very, very naive. As a result of the lack of oversight, professionals such as Doyne and others are free to extort, defraud, and abuse parents and children once they become trapped in the family court system. Your attorneys? Well aware of this trap, yet fail to warn you–in some cases even lead you into it, then blame you once ensnared.
And the judges who oversee it? Willfully ignorant to the abuse, which is not only permitted, but encouraged.
Hence our lawsuit, but that’s a different story.
One venue we attempted to use to explain the fraud and abuse parents face in hiring family court professionals was Yelp. Many sites such as CitySearch, local news agencies such as Channel 10 and The Reader, and private boards such as “The Public Court” or “FixFamilyCourts” and “Angiemedia” have articles and discussion boards gathering opinions, but Yelp has, by far, the most sophisticated standards for choosing which reviews are “recommended” and which are not.
Here’s what our experience shows.
Yelp does not like reports of lawsuit activity. We posted the following review on Yelp (Click through-images to enlarge):
Within 48 hours Yelp “‘gulped”, and replaced it with this:
We thought the review was important enough to keep up, and re-posted it, with the following alert to Yelp about exactly what we were doing (Click to enlarge):
This review stayed up long enough to attract about sixty “votes” from users rating is “helpful” “cool” or “funny”—clearly Yelp’s users liked it. Yelp, did not. Within days Yelp again removed the post, and even sent an email stating the post didn’t conform to the terms of services. We looked at Yelp’s terms and no where did we see anything identified as objectionable content. We asked Yelp to explain, they declined.
Today, when you navigate to Yelp’s page for Stephen Doyne, you’ll find this (click to enlarge):
Still all bad reviews, but what’s even more telling is what Yelp filtered out. Navigate deeper to the gulped “not recommended” links and you’ll find more—much more… (click to enlarge)
The “Cole S.” reviews about the CCFC lawsuit are gulped—for violating content terms and restrictions–presumably Yelp thinks we’re “ranting”. While we disagreed about my post about a lawsuit by Doyne’s former clients violating Yelp’s terms of service, but we were also curious about why the five positive reviews were also filtered out—surely they couldn’t be accused of “ranting” or “repeat negative reviews”—what’s up with the filtering of positive reviews?
Simple—according to Yelp’s video (see above link), their software identifies reviews that are “suspicious”—“suspicious” positive reviews include almost exclusively reviews with a “conflict of interest”—in other words, reviews by the business itself, or entities the business has paid to review it. In other words—DOYNE IS POSTING POSITIVE REVIEWS ABOUT HISMSELF ONLINE.
See it for yourself–Yelp’s software has identified the “positive” reviews about Doyne to be, in fact, by Doyne. And his self-promotion isn’t limited to Yelp–the same deceptive reviews also appear prominently in CitySearch’s results–CitySearch’s filters aren’t as sophisticated as Yelp, meaning the fraud identified by Yelp is continuing to deceive consumers at CitySearch (click to enlarge):
It gets better. We tested the theory with another family court warrior–Marilyn Bierer. As you can see below, Marilyn Bierer is also deep into the business of self-promotion.
Our review of Bierer (click to enlarge):
Yelp gulped it. But what else appears as “not recommended”?
In other words, according to Yelp, the two reviews of Bierer from “Steve B” are reviews by Marilyn Bierer or her “conflict-of-interest” colleagues. I took a capture of the reviews when they were still posted. Here is Steve B.:
Very flattering–if she might, and did, say so herself.
Now why is that important? If you’re a coffee shop trying to drum up business in a new neighborhood, shame on you, but you’re not breaking the law. But for professionals such as psychologists and lawyers, it’s illegal to promote yourself in any deceptive way, its’ illegal to reveal client details, and its’ illegal to commit fraud on future clients. To put it bluntly, Yelp’s “neutral software” has identified strong evidence that Stephen Doyne and Marilyn Bierer have committed fraud, on their clients, fraud on consumers, violated client trusts, and breached numerous ethical rules of their profession. As bad as the evidence we’ve gathered against them already is, this could be the most damning.
Stay tuned as we use Yelp’s automated software review “gulper” to uncover other fraudulent “self-reviews” detected by others of our family court friends.
If you haven’t already closed the book on family court professionals’ attempt to pose as legitimate enterprises, here’s another reason to do so. They will eagerly and flagrantly disregard rules of ethics, professional regulations, and law designed to protect you, in order to propagate their treachery harming your family, and possibly ruining your life.
Don’t make the same mistakes we did. Avoid these frauds at all cost–or cost you it will.
Stay tuned—as our lawsuit unfolds we’ll be the first to report on the depth of the criminal enterprises operating in Family Court.
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