In addition to the Microsoft antitrust trial that hogged the headlines for nearly a year, government officials are keeping a close eye on a number of other issues in the computer industry. The main topics are Y2K glitches, Internet privacy and sexual and violent content online. Their conclusion may well be that the computer industry is unable to regulate itself.
In addition to the Microsoft antitrust trial that hogged the
headlines for nearly a year, government officials are keeping a close
eye on a number of other issues in the computer industry. The main
topics are Y2K glitches, Internet privacy and sexual and violent content
online. Their conclusion may well be that the computer industry is
unable to regulate itself.
In tech communications, we tend to have a ’silo’ mentality and develop
stand-alone programs for product PR, corporate PR, government relations
and IR. However, the government’s review of the computer industry is
likely to make these disciplines converge.
Although we may not have any influence on digital content, we can be
influencing the debate about regulating violence and sex in video games
and creating the context for broader-based regulation. Despite our
freedom of speech, for example, we do have a responsibility not to tell
people to shoot their neighbor; it’s as bad as telling children to
Because of the rising awareness of tech issues, consumers are aware that
unprofitable dot-coms have higher valuations than the GDP of many
countries and they see online brokers luring consumers with images of
The next Black Tuesday could wipe out the life savings of millions of
small investors. If there is a backlash, who will admit
Appearances are everything. There is, or may well be a sense, that at
the point technologists meet entrepreneurs we cease to be able to
distinguish between ’doing well’ and ’doing good.’ That is not to say we
must all morph into bleeding-heart liberals cum social democrats, but
rather our penchant for making money without responsibility makes us
appear obscene - the 1990s version of Barbarians at the Gate. Therefore,
it’s not just what we do and say to address the issue of regulation, but
also how we do and say it.
Consumer-PR messaging impacts jury pools and voters, just as government
relations impacts consumer and business-to-business buying
It is therefore important to develop an integrated approach that factors
government into all communications activities.
As PR pros we will then be in a better position to get out in front of
these issues. Violence and sex online are easier to identify and
address; others, such as Y2K, are more nebulous. Although we may not
have an equivalent to silicon breast implants or asbestos, we are
getting close to a watershed.
Regulation is an emotionally charged issue, which resonates with
government, Wall Street and consumers. Raising our collective
consciences now can avert bigger issues later.
Rachel Postlethwaite is an SVP at New York-based TSI Communications