April 13, 2021

Ethicality of the Internet Marketplace

Nathan Benson

The internet has enhanced the efficiency of trade within society throughout the world. Modern technology allows anyone with internet access to buy or sell virtually any item through the use of global companies such as Amazon. The creation of social media furthered the simplicity of trade by allowing people to connect and contact with others across the world with ease, which also enables a personal connection between users. 

The internet has become the main central marketplace for the general society, and although there is no physical intercommunication involved, a global pandemic proved that many businesses can operate functionally and sometimes more effectively through the internet.

Although the internet’s efficiency makes it an incredibly effective marketplace for business, the lack of interpersonal communication brings questions of its overall ethicality in relation to its usage as a marketplace. In the 2001 business literature “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, the authors described in the introduction of the book how the internet is the inevitable direction for the societal marketplace to go, and how companies who choose to integrate new intellectual perspectives through the internet will flourish as companies that choose not to will diminish.

Sixteen years later, two of the authors wrote a short message that described how the two groups can threaten the effectiveness of the digital marketplace are criminals and ourselves.

Both of these points are important when looking at the ethicality of the internet as a marketplace, as the authors were correct on these two factors. Online business has taken over society, and businesses that chose to integrate early were able to stay ahead of their competition. The global Covid-19 pandemic solidified the importance of having an online presence, and many companies that were unable to work digitally ultimately suffered because of it. 

However, the internet’s efficiency doesn’t mask its flaws. Crime circulates the internet, as identity theft and stalkers are legitimate threats for anybody who has a personal account on the internet. Personal information on online accounts can also be utilized by companies as a marketing tool to deliver advertisements, without permission of the user. 

The two authors also described how the general public is a threat to the overall effectiveness of the internet. My perception of that quote is that people can be easily swayed to consume information that doesn’t bring any betterment to society. An example of this would be a mob of Trump supporters storming the White House, endangering the lives of many without any real purpose. Although the quote can also be interpreted to represent the ethical problems of the internet to a specific individual, as the psychological effects of too much time on social media or other websites can be detrimental to one’s mental health. 

The reality is that the internet is a powerful tool that connects society and acts as a marketplace. However, it is possible to be too attached to the internet, and impossible to monitor all the negative actions, which affects its overall ethicality.

As incoming public relations professionals, it is important that we constantly maintain our ethics in relation to ourselves and our field, as well as question the ethicality of how aspects of the internet are used by companies. As the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto explained, the general public has the ability to make whatever they want out of the internet. 

Because the internet and social media are used so heavily in the field of public relations, we should constantly remind ourselves of the negative aspects, as well as always be thinking of ways to improve both in a career and personal sense in relation to the internet.

Nathan Benson | LinkedIn

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