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

A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-home messaging app for Amazon staff could ban a lengthy string of words and phrases, including “ethics.” Most of the words on the listing are ones that a disgruntled worker would use — conditions like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” In accordance to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, 1 attribute of the messaging application (nevertheless in progress) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a wide variety of phrases that could characterize probable critiques of Amazon’s performing disorders.” Amazon, of program, is not precisely a supporter of unions, and has used (all over again, per the Intercept) a lot of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On 1 hand, it’s easy to see why a business would want not to deliver workforce with a device that would support them do something not in the company’s desire. I indicate, if you want to arrange — or even simply just complain — working with your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s 1 issue. But if you want to accomplish that aim by employing an application that the firm presents for inner business enterprise purposes, the organization maybe has a teensy bit of a respectable complaint.

On the other hand, this is plainly a poor glance for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning personnel from employing words that (probably?) show they’re doing some thing the firm doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just reveal that the company’s employment specifications are not up to snuff.

But definitely, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I necessarily mean, key phrases? Significantly? Don’t we presently know — and if we all know, then definitely Amazon understands — that social media platforms make attainable significantly, a lot extra innovative means of influencing people’s conduct? We have currently seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. In contrast to that, this supposed list of naughty words appears like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should actually be anxious about is employer-furnished platforms that never explicitly ban phrases, but that subtly shape user encounter based on their use of individuals words and phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to impact a countrywide election that way, couldn’t an employer really believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to talk overtly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your business stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business ethics as pretty fundamental. If you cannot talk about it, how possible are you to be to be capable to do it?

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