A new report from The Intercept indicates that a new in-residence messaging application for Amazon personnel could ban a prolonged string of words and phrases, which includes “ethics.” Most of the phrases on the checklist are kinds that a disgruntled employee would use — conditions like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, a person feature of the messaging application (however in progress) would be “An automatic word monitor would also block a wide variety of conditions that could symbolize potential critiques of Amazon’s performing problems.” Amazon, of course, is not exactly a fan of unions, and has put in (all over again, per the Intercept) a good deal of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”
So, what to say about this naughty checklist?
On a single hand, it’s quick to see why a business would want not to give personnel with a tool that would help them do one thing not in the company’s fascination. I mean, if you want to manage — or even merely complain — utilizing your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s a person detail. But if you want to achieve that target by applying an app that the company supplies for internal company purposes, the corporation probably has a teensy little bit of a genuine criticism.
On the other hand, this is plainly a negative seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be literally banning employees from working with phrases that (probably?) reveal they’re performing anything the business does not like, or that possibly just reveal that the company’s employment expectations are not up to snuff.
But genuinely, what strikes me most about this strategy is how ham-fisted it is. I suggest, search phrases? Very seriously? Really don’t we now know — and if we all know, then unquestionably Amazon is aware of — that social media platforms make probable a great deal, significantly more complex means of influencing people’s behaviour? We’ve presently found the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. In comparison to that, this meant record of naughty words and phrases appears to be like Dr Evil seeking to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions really should truly be worried about is employer-offered platforms that really do not explicitly ban terms, but that subtly form consumer working experience based on their use of all those phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to impact a nationwide election that way, couldn’t an employer really believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in similar fasion?
As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to talk openly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your business stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of business enterprise ethics as quite basic. If you can’t speak about it, how likely are you to be to be ready to do it?
(Many thanks to MB for pointing me to this tale.)