This Week in PR Ethics (1/26/23): M&Ms, ChatGPT, Deepfakes and Deadbots


I sure picked a good week to restart the This Week in PR Ethics this year. Everywhere you turn there is an ethics discussion. From ChatGPT to Deepfakes to ChatGPT to M&Ms to ChatGPT and Chatting with Hitler there are topics galore rife for discussion. Did I mention ChatGPT?

  • M&M ethics – This story has blown up over the past few days. What are the ethics considerations of mascots, brand ambassadors, and cartoon characters. In this case, M&M has (at least temporarily) replaced technology (animated characters) with a human because of the divisiveness the characters were driving? Should M&M have caved to its detractors or ethically stuck to its guns? Did it make a good business decision? One author I follow proudly states that every time he is attacked, he loves it, for it drives more spite sales.
  • Should you buy your company’s data for sale on the dark web? – Harvard Business Review always has amazing case studies and I really like the latest.  What are the pros and cons of buying stolen data from your company on the dark web?
  • We do talk about deepfakes – I have been discussing my concern over deepfakes, ethics, and the impact they will have on business for years now.  But the technology is constantly getting more sophisticated and easier to use.  Two interesting articles looked at how tough they are to detect, and how can countries (and companies) respond without curtailing freedom of speech.
  • The ethics of deadbots – Last year there was a story about the ethics of creating deadbots to chat with loved ones.  Well, a company has taken it further and lets you chat with 2,000 historical figures, including Hitler.  It goes back to some practical advice I was given as a kid – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should….
  • ChatGPT – Is seems this development has been the most talked about item in PR (and business in general) for the past few weeks.  PR Week has an interesting take on how it can be used, as well as its drawbacks. I have said for years we are entering the disinformation age.  It may soon be battling with the AI age as AI advances are showing it can do things once thought couldn’t be automated.  There is a ton of grey area when it comes to using it in communication and it will be something I discuss in my interviews moving forward.
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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