While law enforcement and FBI officers were on a “manhunt” for New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, reviewers took to Yelp to extract virtual vigilante justice.
Once reviewers discovered that the First American Fried Chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey was owned by the family of a suspected terrorist, the review page began erupting with negative commentary, including Islamophobic jokes and calls for “ethnic cleansing.”
With only three previous reviews, the First American FriedChicken restaurant had an average rating of 4.67 before Monday morning. Whilethese early reviewers called the food “amazing” and positively remarked thatthe restaurant was halal and “family owned,” an onslaught of one-star reviewsbegan pouring in shortly after the announcement that there was a “manhunt” outfor Rahami.
The one-star reviews came from all over the country,including California, Texas, Alabama and New York.
Some simply wrote not to eat at the restaurant, while othersbegan calling the restaurant a “terrorist cell coverup.” Many users began tocall for the storefront to be shut down.
“Bobby J,” a reviewer from Pompton Plains, New Jersey,announced his intention to hold “a rally to shut this dump down.”
“When a family member is considered the prime suspect inRadical Islamic Terrorist bombings in NYC and NJ and he worked there, not goodfor business… say no to terrorism in our great City!”
Another reviewer identified as “Mary J.” from Waterbury,Connecticut wrote, “there is a serious Jihad problem in this country! Me thinksthat there needs to be an ethnic cleansing here and fast!!!!”
Other Islamophobic and blatantly racist comments continuedto be posted by Yelpers.
“Mick H.” from Watertown, Massachusetts described Islam as“the scab covering earths [sic] healing wound,” adding, “Muslims are aninfection.”
“Kevin D.” from Dallas, Texas wrote a trolling reviewtelling the owners of the restaurant that it “should be closed down permanentlyand every member of your family should be deported back to TERRORSTAN.”
Twenty-one other Yelp users labeled Kevin D.’s comment as “useful.”
“Mark S.” from Mandeville, Louisiana described the employeesof the First American Fried Chicken restaurant as “Filthy Mohammedan Savages.”He encouraged other “savages” to “stop back by and enjoy their cockroach-ladenHalal food, which means the animal has been ritually tortured before processingbecause Satan/Allah commands it.”
“My personal recco is to order the Religion of Pieces,” hecontinued, “it’s Shredded Meat, cooked rare and dripping with blood… it’s afavorite of the Punjabs.”
One Yelp user, “Zach D.” of Saint Louis, Missouri, decidedto combat these reviews by writing a positive message to the family members ofRahami and those trolling the review page of the restaurant:
“I support this family fully. You can’t be responsible forwhat your it [sic] family members do. We all have black sheep in our family.”He continued by calling for “patience, tolerance and compassion” andapologizing for the slew of negative reviews. “Sorry about the media.”
The owners of First American Fried Chicken are not the onlyvictims of Yelp trolling and racist reviews following negative media attention.
Using 1-star Yelp reviews as a form of “social mediaprotest” has become so popular that the site regularly issues an “activecleanup alert,” disabling users from posting any reviews, good or bad. FirstAmerican Fried Chicken’s page had its page temporarily locked under thisdesignation at press time.
A recent instance, occurring only a few weeks ago, involved an ill-fated video published on Bon Appétit entitled PSA: How To Eat Pho. Starring Tyler Akin, the chef-owner of Stock in Philadelphia, the video originally published on Facebook and the magazine’s website instructed viewers on how Akin eats the Vietnamese noodle dish. Called out for "Whitesplaining Pho" by a YouTube channel, Stock was quickly bombarded with negative reviews, and Yelp temporarily locked down the page.
The office owned by Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion during a hunting expedition in July 2015, was also the subject of a barrage of 1-star Yelp reviews. One review, posted by the International Business Times, called for Palmer's death.
“Brought my lion here for dentistry and was horrified by theresult,” the Yelper wrote, before adding, “all kidding aside, I hope you diepainfully.”
An Active Cleanup Alert for First American Fried Chickenrestaurant was not issued until after noon on Monday.
“This business recently made waves in the news,” the noticeread, “which often means that people come to this page to post their views onthe news… as a result your posts to this page may be removed as part of ourcleanup process… feel free to post your thoughts about the recent mediacoverage for this business on Yelp Talk at any time.”
When asked about the decision to issue a hold on the review page of First American Fried Chicken, a Yelp spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the media-fueled commentary on the restaurant's page violated the site's "Content Guidelines."
“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,” the spokesperson stated. “Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news or sees in a video.”