According to information published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in advance of its 40th Annual Meeting last month in Chicago, Yelp! chose to become a private sector member of ALEC (and a member of ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force) as recently as June 28 of this year. This has since been confirmed by Yelp!'s Director of Public Policy, Luther Lowe, who also admitted on Twitter that he "can't ignore" the damage ALEC has done.
Why would Yelp! voluntarily seek to join an organization with ALEC's well-documented track record of attacks on the fundamental rights of Black folks and other people of color — particularly after more than 50 other private sector members have chosen to cease funding ALEC and publicly disassociate themselves from the group?
Yelp!'s action is even more bizarre given that the company paid at least $10,000 to join ALEC during the opening week of George Zimmerman's murder trial in Florida. Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of all criminal charges for fatally shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin — and will likely be immune to any civil penalty for wrongful death — thanks to the NRA-written Shoot First law that ALEC recklessly pushed out to 25 other states.
Shoot First's legal presumption that subjective, racist fears are justifiable grounds for vigilante homicide has served to paint a target on the backs of Black youth in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. Given the outcome of the Zimmerman case and eight years of data on Shoot First's racially-biased outcomes, ALEC has taken no steps to repeal these deadly laws in the states where they're on the books — nor to dissuade ALEC legislators from continuing to introduce new ones. Ten Shoot First bills have been introduced so far in 2013, and two have passed. (This is in addition to 52 bills to enact or tighten voter ID restrictions, of which five have passed.)
When ColorOfChange members and thousands of others fed up with ALEC's attacks on our rights and safety took to ALEC's Yelp! page — and then Yelp!'s own Yelp! page — to tell Yelp! why it's such a bad idea to get in bed with ALEC, Yelp!'s controversial review "filter" promptly hid most from public view. Today, ColorOfChange is launching a new site that makes it easy to "Tell Yelp! No," and will deliver users' comments directly to Yelp!'s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. Take a moment to let Yelp! know what you think of its decision to fund ALEC now.