A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-household messaging application for Amazon employees could ban a very long string of terms, including “ethics.” Most of the text on the listing are types that a disgruntled worker would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” In accordance to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, one particular feature of the messaging application (however in advancement) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a assortment of terms that could characterize potential critiques of Amazon’s performing circumstances.” Amazon, of class, is not precisely a enthusiast of unions, and has spent (all over again, for each the Intercept) a whole lot of revenue on “anti-union consultants.”
So, what to say about this naughty listing?
On just one hand, it’s uncomplicated to see why a enterprise would want not to supply employees with a instrument that would support them do one thing not in the company’s fascination. I necessarily mean, if you want to manage — or even simply just complain — using your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is just one factor. But if you want to attain that aim by employing an application that the organization provides for interior business uses, the enterprise possibly has a teensy bit of a authentic criticism.
On the other hand, this is evidently a lousy glance for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be literally banning staff members from employing terms that (maybe?) show they are accomplishing some thing the firm does not like, or that perhaps just suggest that the company’s employment requirements are not up to snuff.
But genuinely, what strikes me most about this system is how ham-fisted it is. I imply, key phrases? Critically? Do not we by now know — and if we all know, then certainly Amazon appreciates — that social media platforms make feasible substantially, considerably much more subtle ways of influencing people’s behaviour? We have now found the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. In contrast to that, this intended checklist of naughty text appears to be like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions need to seriously be worried about is employer-offered platforms that never explicitly ban terms, but that subtly form consumer knowledge dependent on their use of those terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to impact a national election that way, couldn’t an employer quite believably aim at shaping a unionization vote in comparable fasion?
As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to communicate overtly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your corporation stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business ethics as rather elementary. If you just cannot talk about it, how likely are you to be to be able to do it?
(Many thanks to MB for pointing me to this story.)