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

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A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-dwelling messaging application for Amazon employees could ban a extensive string of phrases, together with “ethics.” Most of the words on the checklist are ones that a disgruntled staff would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, a person aspect of the messaging app (even now in progress) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a wide variety of terms that could characterize potential critiques of Amazon’s doing the job situations.” Amazon, of training course, is not precisely a supporter of unions, and has used (again, per the Intercept) a large amount of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty list?

On 1 hand, it’s simple to see why a business would want not to supply staff with a resource that would assist them do something not in the company’s curiosity. I indicate, if you want to arrange — or even merely complain — working with your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is just one thing. But if you want to attain that aim by using an application that the firm provides for inner enterprise needs, the firm probably has a teensy little bit of a authentic complaint.

On the other hand, this is evidently a undesirable appear for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning workers from using words that (probably?) indicate they are performing anything the corporation does not like, or that perhaps just reveal that the company’s employment requirements aren’t up to snuff.

But seriously, what strikes me most about this prepare is how ham-fisted it is. I necessarily mean, keyword phrases? Severely? Don’t we by now know — and if we all know, then surely Amazon is aware — that social media platforms make probable a great deal, considerably additional complex means of influencing people’s behaviour? We have currently found the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. In contrast to that, this intended listing of naughty text appears like Dr Evil attempting to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions need to seriously be nervous about is employer-supplied platforms that really don’t explicitly ban text, but that subtly form user experience dependent on their use of individuals terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to influence a countrywide election that way, couldn’t an employer pretty believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in identical fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The skill to chat 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 rather fundamental. If you just can’t discuss about it, how possible are you to be to be capable to do it?


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

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