Groupon, Photography and Ethics

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two weeks ago, the current darling of the social media world and the fastest growing company on record, Groupon, made headlines when a photographer used it to fraudulently promote her business. Dana Dawes, the photographer in question, offered a $500 portrait package for $65 (the package included the photoshoot, a DVD of the images, an 8x10 print and 20% off additional prints) and grossed more than $76,000 after selling 1,175 Groupon deals. Aside from the simple math that to do 1,175 photo sessions she would have to shoot over three sessions per day every single day for a year, was the fact that the photos she showcased on her website were stolen and not her own work.

Frenzy ensued and the question as to whether or not Groupon was good or evil was debated in numerous circles. The truth of the matter is that Groupon as a platform isn't the one lacking integrity; the photographer is. I don't know the extent of fact-checking Groupon does to ensure that the vendors offering deals can back up their claims, but it shouldn't have to be at government-clearance level. At some point they have to be able to say, "Ok, we trust that you own the copyright to the photos on your site because surely you wouldn't be stupid enough to offer 1,175 sales based on stolen work and a fake reputation, because you know, this is this is the Internet and Al Gore set it up so that those types of lies can be discovered quickly."

Social media doesn't make someone good or bad, it amplifies who they already are. People have been selling snake oil throughout the ages; social media is simply the newest way to do so. It doesn't make the online media platforms evil, it just means that the people using them in this manner lack integrity, and that they lack integrity both on and offline.

Don't be quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Is Groupon right for your business? Maybe not. But is it wrong for you just because someone lacking morals took advantage of the system? No. People use good things for unethical purposes all the time. This is simply the latest example.

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