This Week in PR Ethics (10/27/22): Deepfakes, Destruction and Self-Destruction

When I started gathering ethics stories for the week, I was sad because I thought it would be a quiet week. Ooh boy was I wrong. From deepfakes, to destruction and self-destruction (and I am not talking the Patriots), to politics and COP27 there is something for everyone.


  • Celebrity Deepfakes and ads – The WSJ had an interesting article this week on the use of celebrities, such as Elon Musk, Tom Cruise, and Leonardo DiCaprio in ads without their consent thanks to deepfake technology. While it skirts legal boundaries based on historical contracts, it opens a host of ethics issues – what is fair use and when do we say no?


  • The Self Destruction of Ye and the agony of affiliated brands – Ye and his recent statements and actions have been a hot topic in my ethics class the past few weeks. From the core issue, to is it unethical to capitalize on someone with mental health issues we looked at a lot. The new ethics question this week, is what took brands so long to take action?


  • Climate Activism – Is damaging works of art effective and ethical? Is it a hoax? – Over the past few weeks, some climate activists have been throwing soup, mashed potatoes, etc., on historic paintings to draw awareness and media attention (Why are we more outraged over their actions rather than the lack of climate action). Is this ethical? My high school son pointed out that the conspiracy theory going around his school is this is an astroturfing false flag campaign by big oil to discredit climate activists. The Smithsonian Magazine reported on that.




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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