Will Amazon Ban “Ethics”? | The Business Ethics Blog


A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-property messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a prolonged string of words, like “ethics.” Most of the words and phrases on the checklist are ones that a disgruntled personnel would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” In accordance to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, a single aspect of the messaging application (even now in progress) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a variety of phrases that could characterize potential critiques of Amazon’s doing the job ailments.” Amazon, of program, is not particularly a enthusiast of unions, and has put in (yet again, for each the Intercept) a good deal of income on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On one hand, it is uncomplicated to see why a corporation would want not to provide workers with a resource that would assist them do anything not in the company’s curiosity. I signify, if you want to manage — or even just complain — using your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is 1 point. But if you want to achieve that purpose by working with an app that the company gives for inner business reasons, the business it’s possible has a teensy little bit of a legitimate complaint.

On the other hand, this is evidently a lousy look for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be literally banning employees from employing text that (probably?) point out they’re carrying out a thing the corporation does not like, or that possibly just show that the company’s work benchmarks aren’t up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this strategy is how ham-fisted it is. I mean, search phrases? Significantly? Really don’t we already know — and if we all know, then absolutely Amazon is familiar with — that social media platforms make attainable a lot, considerably much more sophisticated strategies of influencing people’s conduct? We’ve by now seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. Compared to that, this supposed list of naughty words looks like Dr Evil seeking to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should seriously be apprehensive about is employer-presented platforms that don’t explicitly ban phrases, but that subtly condition user practical experience based mostly on their use of all those terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to affect a national election that way, could not an employer very believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in similar fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to communicate overtly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your organization stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of business enterprise ethics as really essential. If you just cannot converse about it, how probable are you to be to be capable to do it?

(Many thanks to MB for pointing me to this tale.)


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