This Week in PR Ethics (8/18/22): Who is liable when an AI kills? How often do people lie?

There were a number of interesting communication ethics issues this week ranging from business operations and liability to sources of disinformation.

  • Who is liable when AI kills – It is something communication pros will have to grapple with more frequently as AI becomes more ubiquitous. What happens when the way your company developed an AI means it killed someone? This is always a hot topic with my students and has real world implications. Every self-driving car company is dealing with their own. Save the driver or save the crowd? If it is not part of your crisis planning, it should be.
  • How often do we lie? A new study from a gaming company finds the average person lies four times a day. The most common response when I ask my guests for the best ethics advice they ever received is “Tell the truth.” Yet we all have lied, told white lies or administrative lies. Where do you draw the line? How do you decide where to draw it and how to you make sure your teams understand?
  • How are businesses dealing with Russia and Ukraine today? – The Holmes Report had an interesting article this week that looks at how, after an initial flurry, businesses have become increasingly quiet on Russia and Ukraine. What is our ethical duty in this area?
  • Are unethical and repressive entities entitled to PR counsel – In a similar vein, I enjoyed reading this blog post that questions the ethics of companies representing repressive regimes.
  • How to avoid joining the disinformation ecosystem – This interesting article from the Bliss Group provides some questions to ask to make sure when you are sharing information, you are not contributing to the disinformation ecosystem. (I practiced this before sharing the how often do we lie link).
  • TikTok as a growing source of political misinformation – Speaking of disinformation. The New York Times reported on the rise of TikTok as a source of political misinformation and what it means to midterms. TikTok responded with a blog post detailing its commitment to election integrity
  • Misinformation online – PRSA’s daily newsletter had a link to this article from Poynter that reports 62% of respondents see false or misleading information online every week.

What did you see this week?


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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