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

Marty Batteen

A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-household messaging application for Amazon workforce could ban a lengthy string of terms, together with “ethics.” Most of the words and phrases on the list 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, one particular function of the messaging app (however in improvement) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a variety of conditions that could symbolize potential critiques of Amazon’s working problems.” Amazon, of study course, is not accurately a admirer of unions, and has invested (again, for every the Intercept) a whole lot of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty checklist?

On just one hand, it’s easy to see why a organization would want not to give workforce with a instrument that would enable them do a thing not in the company’s curiosity. I indicate, if you want to organize — or even just complain — working with your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, which is a person factor. But if you want to reach that objective by making use of an application that the enterprise gives for internal business purposes, the enterprise it’s possible has a teensy little bit of a respectable grievance.

On the other hand, this is evidently a undesirable search for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be pretty much banning workers from applying text that (it’s possible?) point out they’re accomplishing some thing the corporation doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just point out that the company’s employment benchmarks aren’t up to snuff.

But definitely, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I signify, keywords and phrases? Severely? Really don’t we presently know — and if we all know, then definitely Amazon understands — that social media platforms make possible considerably, considerably much more innovative means of influencing people’s conduct? We’ve currently witnessed the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. Compared to that, this supposed record of naughty words and phrases looks like Dr Evil seeking to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should really be worried about is employer-supplied platforms that really don’t explicitly ban words, but that subtly condition consumer encounter based on their use of those people words. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to impact a national election that way, could not an employer fairly believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The capacity to talk brazenly about ethics — about values, about rules, about what your enterprise stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of company ethics as rather basic. If you can’t chat about it, how likely are you to be to be capable to do it?

(Thanks to MB for pointing me to this tale.)

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