February 3, 2023

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

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

A new report from The Intercept indicates that a new in-dwelling messaging application for Amazon personnel could ban a extensive string of terms, including “ethics.” Most of the words on the list are kinds that a disgruntled staff would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” In accordance to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, a person characteristic of the messaging app (nevertheless in progress) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a selection of conditions that could symbolize possible critiques of Amazon’s operating situations.” Amazon, of class, is not precisely a enthusiast of unions, and has used (yet again, for every the Intercept) a ton of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On 1 hand, it’s straightforward to see why a firm would want not to supply workforce with a device that would support them do a little something not in the company’s desire. I signify, if you want to arrange — or even merely complain — utilizing your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is 1 point. But if you want to obtain that purpose by applying an app that the organization gives for inside business functions, the organization possibly has a teensy little bit of a authentic grievance.

On the other hand, this is clearly a negative look for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be pretty much banning workers from making use of words that (possibly?) point out they’re carrying out one thing the business doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just reveal that the company’s employment specifications are not up to snuff.

But seriously, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I indicate, search phrases? Seriously? Do not we by now know — and if we all know, then definitely Amazon is familiar with — that social media platforms make probable considerably, substantially a lot more innovative strategies of influencing people’s behaviour? We’ve presently witnessed the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. As opposed to that, this intended checklist of naughty phrases would seem like Dr Evil making an attempt to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should definitely be apprehensive about is employer-presented platforms that don’t explicitly ban words and phrases, but that subtly condition person encounter dependent on their use of all those phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to influence a nationwide election that way, could not an employer rather believably aim at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The ability to chat overtly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your firm stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of organization ethics as rather basic. If you simply cannot discuss about it, how most likely are you to be to be capable to do it?


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