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

A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-residence messaging application for Amazon staff members could ban a long string of words and phrases, together with “ethics.” Most of the terms on the listing are kinds that a disgruntled staff would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, just one element of the messaging application (nonetheless in enhancement) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a range of phrases that could represent probable critiques of Amazon’s doing the job disorders.” Amazon, of class, is not just a admirer of unions, and has spent (once more, per the Intercept) a large amount of income 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 supply workforce with a tool that would assist them do something not in the company’s interest. I suggest, if you want to organize — or even simply just complain — working with your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that is a single issue. But if you want to obtain that goal by utilizing an app that the organization offers for internal organization reasons, the business probably has a teensy bit of a genuine grievance.

On the other hand, this is obviously a negative appear for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be basically banning personnel from applying words that (maybe?) point out they are executing anything the company does not like, or that probably just reveal that the company’s work requirements are not up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I signify, key terms? Severely? Do not we by now know — and if we all know, then absolutely Amazon knows — that social media platforms make probable substantially, substantially far more innovative ways of influencing people’s behaviour? We have already found the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. Compared to that, this supposed listing of naughty phrases seems like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions really should really be apprehensive about is employer-supplied platforms that really don’t explicitly ban text, but that subtly shape consumer practical experience based mostly 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 quite believably goal at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The skill to converse brazenly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your enterprise stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business ethics as really fundamental. If you simply cannot speak about it, how possible are you to be to be equipped to do it?


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