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

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

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A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-home messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a very long string of phrases, like “ethics.” Most of the text on the checklist are kinds that a disgruntled worker would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” In accordance to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, a single feature of the messaging application (nevertheless in growth) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a variety of phrases that could characterize probable critiques of Amazon’s functioning ailments.” Amazon, of program, is not accurately a fan of unions, and has used (once more, for each the Intercept) a large amount of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty record?

On a single hand, it is uncomplicated to see why a corporation would want not to offer staff members with a instrument that would assistance them do some thing not in the company’s fascination. I mean, if you want to arrange — or even merely complain — working with your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that is a person thing. But if you want to obtain that goal by applying an app that the corporation supplies for interior business enterprise uses, the corporation possibly has a teensy little bit of a genuine complaint.

On the other hand, this is clearly a lousy search for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning staff members from applying words and phrases that (probably?) point out they are executing a thing the enterprise does not like, or that perhaps just reveal that the company’s work standards are not up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this prepare is how ham-fisted it is. I suggest, keyword phrases? Critically? Don’t we presently know — and if we all know, then absolutely Amazon knows — that social media platforms make achievable a lot, significantly additional sophisticated approaches of influencing people’s conduct? We’ve now witnessed the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. In contrast to that, this supposed record of naughty text appears to be like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions must actually be anxious about is employer-presented platforms that do not explicitly ban words, but that subtly shape consumer practical experience dependent on their use of people text. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to affect a countrywide election that way, couldn’t an employer rather believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The skill to discuss openly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your organization stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of enterprise ethics as really fundamental. If you can not converse about it, how probable are you to be to be capable to do it?


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

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