March 5, 2024


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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 suggests that a new in-residence messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a long string of words, together with “ethics.” Most of the words on the record are kinds that a disgruntled worker would use — conditions like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” According to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, one aspect of the messaging app (nonetheless in development) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a range of conditions that could stand for likely critiques of Amazon’s functioning circumstances.” Amazon, of study course, is not particularly a enthusiast of unions, and has put in (once again, for each the Intercept) a whole lot of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty checklist?

On a single hand, it is quick to see why a firm would want not to offer staff with a software that would help them do a little something not in the company’s curiosity. I mean, if you want to organize — or even simply just complain — using your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that is a person factor. But if you want to realize that purpose by making use of an application that the business gives for interior business enterprise reasons, the firm maybe has a teensy bit of a authentic grievance.

On the other hand, this is obviously a lousy glimpse for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning employees from working with words that (maybe?) show they are doing a little something the company doesn’t like, or that probably just reveal that the company’s work criteria are not up to snuff.

But actually, what strikes me most about this approach is how ham-fisted it is. I necessarily mean, key terms? Severely? Never we now know — and if we all know, then definitely Amazon is aware — that social media platforms make attainable considerably, considerably extra innovative methods of influencing people’s behaviour? We have presently seen the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. In contrast to that, this meant checklist of naughty terms appears to be like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions must genuinely be apprehensive about is employer-furnished platforms that really do not explicitly ban words and phrases, but that subtly shape person practical experience based on their use of people phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to affect a national election that way, could not an employer really believably aim at shaping a unionization vote in related fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to converse brazenly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your organization stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of organization ethics as fairly basic. If you simply cannot converse about it, how probably are you to be to be in a position to do it?

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