December 1, 2022

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


A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-dwelling messaging app for Amazon personnel could ban a extended string of words and phrases, including “ethics.” Most of the phrases on the record are ones that a disgruntled staff would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” According to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, just one characteristic of the messaging application (nevertheless in growth) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a variety of terms that could represent potential critiques of Amazon’s performing ailments.” Amazon, of class, is not accurately a lover of unions, and has spent (once more, for each the Intercept) a lot of funds on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On just one hand, it is simple to see why a business would want not to offer staff with a instrument that would help them do a little something not in the company’s desire. I indicate, if you want to organize — or even only complain — using your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s a single matter. But if you want to realize that target by making use of an application that the business presents for internal business purposes, the corporation it’s possible has a teensy bit of a respectable grievance.

On the other hand, this is obviously a negative glimpse for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be pretty much banning employees from using text that (maybe?) show they’re carrying out a thing the firm doesn’t like, or that possibly just point out that the company’s employment requirements are not up to snuff.

But genuinely, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I imply, keywords? Critically? Don’t we previously know — and if we all know, then surely Amazon is aware of — that social media platforms make feasible a lot, substantially a lot more subtle strategies of influencing people’s behaviour? We have already witnessed the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. In comparison to that, this meant listing of naughty words would seem like Dr Evil hoping to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions must genuinely be apprehensive about is employer-supplied platforms that do not explicitly ban words, but that subtly shape user experience based on their use of people words. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to influence a countrywide election that way, could not an employer fairly believably goal at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to communicate openly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your enterprise stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of company ethics as quite elementary. If you can’t speak about it, how very likely are you to be to be equipped to do it?

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


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