Etsy and the rest of the Internet are riding Breast Cancer Awareness Month all the way to the bank

breast cancer awareness monthIt’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, and that means you best be prepared to see every store shelf – physical and virtual – awash in pink. And while the good people that choose to pick up pink products are likely doing it for the right reasons, that doesn’t mean the sellers are. A woman with breast cancer has accused Etsy of “pinkwashing,” or riding the wave of popularized pink products to make a dime during the month of October.

Etsy created a shopping guide, titled “Tickled Pink,” full of — you guessed it — a plethora of pink and ribboned items. Like this strappy bra, this faux deer head, and this bouquet. But, as it turns out, purchasing many of these items won’t contribute a dime toward breast cancer charities. More misleading yet, a variety of the products bearing the pink ribbon emblem featured in the guide also don’t contribute toward donations.

It’s difficult to criticize what is essentially a good thing. (The viral drive to try and end a horrible disease — what’s to hate?). But it’s become far too easy for anyone to slap a pink coat of paint or a ribbon sticker on something, go easy on the details, and let the world assume the money spent on said item is going to help breast cancer survivors or research or what-have-you.

The Internet only makes this easier. There’s no face-to-face interaction, and you can wrap anything up in promotional language and make it sound effective and true. Take, for example, Pornhub’s Save the Boobies! campaign: The site says that during breast cancer awareness month, “[We] will donate one cent for every 30 videos viewed from our big-tit and small-tit categories. The more videos viewed, the bigger our donation will be to a breast cancer research charity.” Initially, that charity was Susan G. Komen – but the foundation said it would not take the money. A new organization for the fundraising has yet to be announced, although the campaign is ongoing; the number ticker on the site continues to go up, even though Pornhub hasn’t specified where it will be making its donation. This isn’t exactly advised giving.

bc pashminaIt’s not only the seedier side of stumping for breast cancer fundraising online that we have to worry about — there are all sorts of ethical questions to be asked about marketing a disease in general. Check out any online marketplace — as well as mobile app stores — and you’ll find a veritable cornucopia of pink “breast cancer” products… many of which offer no details about how much money (if any) they are donating and to where. This sort of product stamping is all part of the commodification of activism, which the Internet has become a home for. We all want to look like we care, and sharing your recent Amazon purchase of this “Breast Cancer Pashmina” (really? You’re just going to straight up call it a “Breast Cancer Pashmina”?) on Facebook certainly makes us look like we’re interested in the cause.

app breast cancer wallpaperWho’s to say if you are or not – but this is just lazy, and online vendors are taking advantage of the over-marketing and commercialization of breast cancer as well as our own indolence to make a buck. “If something seems too easy, it usually is,” says Breast Cancer Action founder and activist Barbara Brenner. “There is no regulation of the use of the pink ribbon on products, and they are often exploited just the way the Etsy Shopping Guide exploits them. These products produce one thing and one thing only: Profits for the sellers.”

Brenner says the best way to avoid these scams? “Give directly to a breast cancer organization you know and trust.”  

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Social Media

Instagram to make giving easier with a Stories donation sticker for fundraisers

Instagram is preparing to launch a donation feature within Stories that would allow users to raise cash for a range of nonprofit charities. The company confirmed it's aiming to launch the donation sticker later this year.
Gaming

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.
Mobile

AT&T jumps the gun with deliberately misleading 5GE launch

As excitement about 5G networks continues to build, AT&T jumps the gun with a ridiculous and deliberate attempt to deceive the public with 5G Evolution – a speed bump that’s based on improvements to 4G tech.
Features

Netflix’s latest price increase heralds the end of streaming’s golden age

Netflix’s recent price rise is just the latest in a string of signs that streaming’s golden age is nearly over. As more services enter the fray, content will be further partitioned, signaling the end of streaming’s good old days.
Features

Netflix’s rate hike is a good thing. Wait, wait, hear us out

Upset at Netflix for raising its rates? We don't blame you. Nobody likes to pay more for anything -- even if they love that thing. But you really should be thanking the streaming entertainment giant. The hike in prices is a necessary and…
Mobile

Bezel-less phones are terrible for typing on, and it’s only going to get worse

Bezel-less smartphone screens look great, and foldable smartphones are an exciting part of the mobile future; but we don't like where the typing experience is heading because of these two trends.
Gaming

Blizzard's dismal updates to 'Diablo 3' make 'Path of Exile' the better option

'Diablo 3' season 16, the 'Season of Grandeur,' is live. It attempts to shake up the stale meta-game with a minor tweak, but it falls far short of what fans of the franchise want. Better games like 'Path of Exile' are eating Blizzard's…
Wearables

A wearable may save your life, thanks to A.I. and big data. Here’s how

Wearables are morphing from devices that send you smartphone notifications and track your fitness into gadgets that can monitor your health -- and maybe even save your life.
Gaming

'Wargroove' is a delightful tactics game that lets you recruit cute armored pups

Wargroove is a fantastical Advance Wars successor with beautiful pixelated visuals and rewarding grid-based combat. In addition to a meaty campaign, Wargroove has an intuitive map editor that lets you create robust campaigns of your own.
Smart Home

Will everything from lamps to fridges be spying on me? Yes, and I’m creeped out

With the debut of Panasonic’s HomeHawk lamp with built-in video camera, should we be concerned that everything -- from couches to dishwashers -- could soon be spying on us? Here’s why the answer to that question is yes.
Computing

Debunking Dark Mode: Here’s why it won’t improve your laptop’s battery life

Dark Mode is known to improve battery life for certain devices, like a smartphone with an OLED screen. Does that apply to laptops, as well? To find out we tested two laptops, one running Windows and one running MacOS.