Ethics in Internet Marketing--a discussion

To start off this week’s discussion I want to provide a link to a great article I found regarding this topic:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,293389,00.html

In the article I was drawn to the fact that pharmaceutical company, Seroquel, which makes a drug AstraZeneca—that “allegedly made teenagers ‘more likely to think about harming or killing themselves’"—was caught going in and altering the Wikipedia pages, deleting the information. After this got out the FDA issued a recommendation that pharmaceutical companies should warn about these possible side effects on labeling.

In this case I am more than certain that the company was fully aware of what it was doing. That they do enough preliminary testing to know what are possible and definitive side effects of using a particular drug. With profit interests at the wheel of our modern day medical/pharmaceutical/FDA triad, leading the anti-drug-war, while supporting the manufacturers and pushers of the legal-drug system; there really is no question why they would do this. To sell drugs which supposedly help us in the long run, and to make a profit. The saw bad PR, and just like a case study they would shred, they went in and deleted someone’s Constitutional right to speak, in the interest of the shareholder.

Tobacco now has their warning labels, and before they were required to provide warnings and take responsibility for the deaths their products cause, Camel Joe was a kid’s favorite in the advertising world. I think this points out the infancy we are in with regards to legal and moral codes that need to be established on the Internet. I think if a company does something like this, a great legal ramification would be to make them remove their Web site and all other online mediums that have the interest of the company as the goal for certain amount of time. Just like corporate America is separate from the individual American, so too can the companies be kept separate from the people on the Web. Ultimately, what Seroquel did not understand is that people are smart enough to use the Internet in ways they might not yet be aware of, just like reverse searching an IP address and linking it to the corporate office’s terminal. I do understand, if someone is unfairly bashing a company or product—but that is why slander laws are in place. If this is the case though, then it is easily reversed with proper PR.

Seroquel could have quite simply been honest. Not lie about side effects of their drugs and let the consumers make a wise choice. Instead of being scrupulous, face the negative PR head on. Take responsibility for it. Maybe in the case of a few, the suicidal thoughts would be a good day for them. Bring that to light. Instead of deletion, say “yes, this is true, but…”. There should be a cloak of responsibility that surrounds the corporate conglomerates. Maybe Wikipedia needs to alter the access privileges from IP addresses and email accounts that have any relation to the company. And the government could make it illegal for anyone with corporate relations to an entity to go in and talk about that company on open and social forums. In any case, just like Watergate, when you hide and cover up the truth, these corporations have a legal responsibility to allow free and open communication between consumers. The Internet really makes the truth much easier to get to. 

read more