This Week in PR Ethics (6/3/21): Sponsored Content, Ethicswashing and AI

Welcome back. I took a much-needed sanity break, but while I was out – ethics issues didn’t stop. A few highlights this week include ethical issues with sponsored content, ethicswashing and AI


  • How AI could amplify misinformation – NextGov had a fascinating piece on how AI could amplify disinformation campaigns. I have been talking about it for years, but this backed by research and shows how in one sample is significantly swayed opinion with misinformation.


  • Local news, sponsored content and ethics@imeluny drew my attention to a John Oliver piece last week on the further blurring of sponsored content lines on local media. A USC Annenberg study showed this troubling trend a few years ago when it predicted more than half of Americans would not be able to tell the difference in reporting and sponsored content. This is just a powerful example. It struck a chord with me, for I saw a similar piece in May on local news and asked my wife – How the heck are they not disclosing this is sponsored?


  • Ethicswashing and Greenwashing – I have discussed this topic a lot with my clients and students. It is not enough to say you believe in something – you need to act on it. The New York Times had a great piece last week on Greenwashing. Chipotle handled it well, other companies, not as well…
Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
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Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the general manager of C+C's Boston office. C+C is a communications agency all about the good and purpose-driven brands. He has more than 20 years of tech and fintech agency experience, served as the 2016 National Chair of PRSA, drove the creation of the PRSA Ethics App and is the host of


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