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

ByBilly Alsman

May 8, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-house messaging application for Amazon staff could ban a extensive string of words, including “ethics.” Most of the text on the listing are ones that a disgruntled employee would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” In accordance to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, one aspect of the messaging app (nonetheless in development) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a assortment of conditions that could symbolize prospective critiques of Amazon’s doing work ailments.” Amazon, of system, is not specifically a fan of unions, and has spent (once more, per the Intercept) a large amount of income on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty listing?

On just one hand, it is quick to see why a firm would want not to present staff with a instrument that would support them do a thing not in the company’s curiosity. I suggest, if you want to arrange — or even basically complain — using your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is one detail. But if you want to achieve that aim by utilizing an app that the enterprise presents for internal small business reasons, the organization perhaps has a teensy bit of a authentic complaint.

On the other hand, this is plainly a terrible seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be actually banning staff from utilizing words that (perhaps?) point out they are executing a little something the company doesn’t like, or that possibly just indicate that the company’s work benchmarks aren’t up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I signify, keywords? Critically? Really don’t we already know — and if we all know, then certainly Amazon is aware — that social media platforms make doable a great deal, significantly much more complex ways of influencing people’s conduct? We have presently seen the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. Compared to that, this intended checklist of naughty words looks like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions really should genuinely be apprehensive about is employer-offered platforms that do not explicitly ban words, but that subtly form consumer encounter primarily based on their use of those terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to impact a countrywide election that way, couldn’t an employer fairly believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in identical fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The ability to communicate overtly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your enterprise stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business ethics as fairly basic. If you just can’t speak about it, how probable are you to be to be capable to do it?

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


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