Is It Ethical for Influencers To Be Honest?

half face of marques brownlee with humane ai pin holding out his hand to a projection of $700 with abstract background
Humane AI Pin Review Marques Brownlee/YouTube Blackboard/Shutterstock

In the past, influencers have received a lot of flack for being dishonest in product reviews. It’s easy for the line between branded content and deceptively positive reviews to become blurry.

But what about the other side? Is it right for influencers to harshly review a product, even if that review is just them being honest?

YouTuber Marques Brownlee, better known as MKBHD, went viral this week for being brutally honest. After reviewing Humane’s new AI pin, a small computer that can be worn on one’s shirt, he dubbed it the “worst product” he has ever reviewed.

In response to this review, some are wondering if honesty can go too far.

Marques Brownlee’s brutally honest Humane AI pin review

Among other things, Marques Brownlee criticized the Humane AI pin’s “really bad” battery life. He said it was “bad at everything” it was primarily designed to do, such as answering users’ questions (while also having some interesting intuitive features, like translating languages in real-time.)

Some online criticized Brownlee for potentially “bankrupting” the company with his review. One viral tweet went so far as to call it “distasteful, almost unethical.” 

In response, Brownlee tweeted, “We disagree on what my job is.”

This isn’t the first time Brownlee has negatively reviewed a product. Numerous netizens drew attention to the fact that he was similarly scathing about the EV Fisker, which he called “the worst car I’ve ever reviewed.”

But returning to the Humane AI pin, Marques Brownlee is far from the only one who negatively reviewed the item. The Verge, for instance, described it as “so totally broken in so many unacceptable ways.” 

With this in mind, maybe internet users are too quick to judge the creator for what at least appears to be an honest opinion. And many creators also came to Brownlee’s defense when it came to this review.  

“One of my favorite things about Marques is he just says…. the TRUTH,” Destin of the YouTube channel Smarter Every Day wrote. “His ability to test a product, empathize with users, reduce that experience to a digestible form and present that information with effortless precision is unparalleled.”

Similarly, Twitch streamer Charlie (@moistcr1tikal) said: “Imagine a world where all reviewers have to give squeaky clean reviews to everything. The whole point is informing people on products so they can decide if it’s worth buying.”

And most telling of all, Humane employee Sam Sheffer praised the review in a tweet, noting that it’s “all fair and valid critiques, both the good and the bad.”

“Feedback is a gift,” he added. “We reflect and we listen and we learn and we continue building.”

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