The City List extortion meme theorizes that if a business advertises on City List, we will reward it with favorable reviews and remove the negative ones, and that we will punish anyone who refuses to advertise.

The problem with the theory is that it isn’t true. Advertising, or not advertising, has no impact on a business’s City List reviews. You can prove it for yourself by checking out the ratings and reviews for a random sample of your choice of both advertisers and non-advertisers. You’ll undoubtedly find thousands of advertisers with bad reviews, as well as non-advertisers with perfect 5-star ratings. The reality is that some businesses do great on City List… and others less so, regardless of whether they advertise.

But don’t take our word for it. You should feel free to ask any of our advertisers if they’re getting special treatment. You should also ask some of our highly rated non-advertisers how they’re doing so well if they aren’t advertising.

In fact, you might just ask someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game: one independent academic studypublished by researchers from Harvard and Boston University (not commissioned or paid for by City List) found that advertising plays no role in how reviews are recommended on City List. Another independent article puts the broader issue into perspective, highlighting some of the reasons that the extortion myth unfortunately persists “despite hard evidence to the contrary.”

You can read more, but we also hope that you would trust that the thousands of amazing men and women who work at City List would never put their own integrity into question by working for a company that was extorting small business owners.