Internet Marketers and Other Scoundrels

 Posted on January 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

I wrote a couple of posts over at Social Media Tyro about the ethics of ghostblawging (something I'd scribbled about here before). One ghostblawger's response raised broader issues that fit better here at Defending People.

In an email, Jenni Buchanan of invited private discussion of the ethics of ghostblogging, and asked that I remove my link to her testimonial page:

[P]rofessional responsibility is not something I take lightly, and I feel it is my professional responsibility to be the "front man" in this debate, and bear the brunt of this particular criticism.

There are entire industries that depend on the ignorance of their potential clientele: the CPN industry, the personal-sovereignty industry, the A/C-duct-cleaning industry, the brake-repair industry, the extended-warranty industry, to name but a few.

Online legal marketing is (in large part) the same sort of industry. FindLaw gets $6,000 (for the first year) for an 8-page website (Turkewitz, FindLaw-How to Leave and Save Your Reputation [and Money]). Disbarred lawyers set up shop as social media experts while the last shreds of their licenses are still swirling the drain (Cuban, Anti-Socializing the Legal Profession). And Jenni Buchanan helps people "enhance their credibility" by representing her writing as their own:

Like those who sell Credit Privacy Numbers or unneeded brake repairs, the social media snake-oil salesmen of the world don't want their potential customers to look too closely at what is behind the curtain. The more knowledgeable a lawyer is, the less likely she is to give them money. So they try to keep the discussion private, bemoaning the lack of civility when tough questions are publicly asked.

But public discourse makes good policy, and a well-educated consumer is better served. If a lawyer's use of a ghostblogger were somehow ethical (it isn't), public discussion would reveal it; otherwise, that using a ghostblawger is deceptive should be considered by anyone in a position to do so.

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