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

A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-property messaging application for Amazon personnel could ban a long string of words, which includes “ethics.” Most of the phrases on the list are ones that a disgruntled personnel would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, one particular element of the messaging app (nonetheless in growth) would be “An automatic word monitor would also block a wide range of terms that could represent probable critiques of Amazon’s performing disorders.” Amazon, of program, is not just a enthusiast of unions, and has put in (all over again, per the Intercept) a good deal of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty checklist?

On just one hand, it’s straightforward to see why a enterprise would want not to supply staff with a tool that would assist them do anything not in the company’s interest. I imply, if you want to manage — or even just complain — applying your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, which is one matter. But if you want to obtain that aim by employing an application that the firm presents for inside business purposes, the organization perhaps has a teensy bit of a authentic criticism.

On the other hand, this is plainly a terrible appear for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be basically banning workers from working with text that (maybe?) reveal they are carrying out one thing the organization does not like, or that maybe just show that the company’s work criteria aren’t up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I indicate, keywords? Severely? Never we presently know — and if we all know, then surely Amazon is aware of — that social media platforms make probable significantly, considerably extra innovative approaches of influencing people’s behaviour? We have already seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. Compared to that, this intended list of naughty phrases would seem like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should genuinely be anxious about is employer-offered platforms that don’t explicitly ban words and phrases, but that subtly condition consumer experience based on their use of those text. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to influence a countrywide election that way, could not an employer really believably aim at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?

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


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