June 23, 2024

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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 very long string of terms, such as “ethics.” Most of the terms on the listing are types that a disgruntled employee would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, one aspect of the messaging app (however in growth) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a selection of conditions that could represent possible critiques of Amazon’s performing conditions.” Amazon, of training course, is not specifically a enthusiast of unions, and has used (all over again, per the Intercept) a large amount of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On one hand, it is quick to see why a enterprise would want not to give staff with a tool that would aid them do one thing not in the company’s fascination. I suggest, if you want to organize — or even basically complain — applying your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that’s 1 thing. But if you want to reach that goal by making use of an app that the enterprise supplies for inner business functions, the organization probably has a teensy little bit of a authentic complaint.

On the other hand, this is clearly a terrible look for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be basically banning staff members from using phrases that (it’s possible?) suggest they are carrying out something the business doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just indicate that the company’s work expectations aren’t up to snuff.

But truly, what strikes me most about this system is how ham-fisted it is. I indicate, search phrases? Critically? Really do not we presently know — and if we all know, then certainly Amazon is aware of — that social media platforms make attainable considerably, a lot more refined methods of influencing people’s conduct? We have by now witnessed the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. In comparison to that, this intended list of naughty phrases appears like Dr Evil making an attempt to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should genuinely be concerned about is employer-provided platforms that really don’t explicitly ban words and phrases, but that subtly condition user practical experience centered on their use of all those phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to influence a nationwide election that way, could not an employer very believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to communicate overtly about ethics — about values, about rules, about what your corporation stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business enterprise ethics as really basic. If you just can’t discuss about it, how very likely are you to be to be able to do it?


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