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

A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-house messaging app for Amazon personnel could ban a long string of words and phrases, which include “ethics.” Most of the words on the checklist are kinds that a disgruntled employee would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, one particular characteristic of the messaging application (however in advancement) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a wide range of conditions that could depict opportunity critiques of Amazon’s doing work ailments.” Amazon, of class, is not just a fan of unions, and has expended (yet again, per the Intercept) a great deal of income on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On 1 hand, it’s straightforward to see why a company would want not to provide staff with a tool that would support them do a little something not in the company’s fascination. I mean, if you want to organize — or even just complain — utilizing your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s a person matter. But if you want to realize that goal by working with an application that the corporation provides for inside business enterprise purposes, the enterprise probably has a teensy bit of a authentic criticism.

On the other hand, this is obviously a undesirable seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be basically banning workforce from utilizing words that (probably?) reveal they are performing some thing the organization does not like, or that maybe just suggest that the company’s employment criteria aren’t up to snuff.

But seriously, what strikes me most about this strategy is how ham-fisted it is. I indicate, keywords and phrases? Significantly? Really do not we now know — and if we all know, then unquestionably Amazon knows — that social media platforms make possible significantly, a great deal extra advanced methods of influencing people’s conduct? We’ve already viewed the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. As opposed to that, this meant record of naughty phrases appears to be like Dr Evil seeking to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions ought to definitely be apprehensive about is employer-provided platforms that really do not explicitly ban text, but that subtly condition consumer encounter based on their use of individuals phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to affect a national election that way, could not an employer fairly believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in identical fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to talk overtly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your corporation stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of small business ethics as very basic. If you can’t discuss about it, how likely are you to be to be in a position to do it?

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

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