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


A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-dwelling messaging app for Amazon workers could ban a extended string of words and phrases, 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 increase.” According to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, a single feature of the messaging app (however in progress) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a selection of phrases that could characterize likely critiques of Amazon’s performing circumstances.” Amazon, of system, is not accurately a supporter of unions, and has used (once more, per the Intercept) a large amount of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty record?

On one particular hand, it is uncomplicated to see why a corporation would want not to provide employees with a device that would enable them do one thing not in the company’s interest. I mean, if you want to arrange — or even simply just complain — employing your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that is one particular detail. But if you want to reach that intention by utilizing an application that the enterprise gives for internal small business reasons, the enterprise possibly has a teensy little bit of a reputable criticism.

On the other hand, this is obviously a bad look for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be basically banning staff members from applying phrases that (possibly?) reveal they’re executing anything the enterprise doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just point out that the company’s work criteria aren’t up to snuff.

But seriously, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I signify, key terms? Seriously? Don’t we already know — and if we all know, then surely Amazon understands — that social media platforms make achievable a lot, significantly additional refined strategies of influencing people’s behaviour? We have previously witnessed the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. Compared to that, this intended checklist of naughty text looks like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions must really be concerned about is employer-presented platforms that really don’t explicitly ban terms, but that subtly form person practical experience based on their use of those people words and phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to influence a countrywide election that way, couldn’t an employer rather believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to communicate brazenly about ethics — about values, about principles, about what your organization stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of enterprise ethics as quite essential. If you can not chat about it, how likely are you to be to be in a position to do it?

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


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