May 27, 2024

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

A new report from The Intercept indicates that a new in-dwelling messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a very long string of terms, which include “ethics.” Most of the words on the listing are kinds that a disgruntled worker would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” In accordance to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, one element of the messaging application (nevertheless in improvement) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a wide variety of phrases that could characterize prospective critiques of Amazon’s working ailments.” Amazon, of training course, is not specifically a lover of unions, and has invested (once more, per the Intercept) a good deal of funds on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty checklist?

On one particular hand, it is simple to see why a firm would want not to offer personnel with a instrument that would aid them do a thing not in the company’s curiosity. I imply, if you want to manage — or even merely complain — working with your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that is a single point. But if you want to achieve that intention by making use of an app that the company supplies for interior enterprise applications, the company probably has a teensy little bit of a authentic criticism.

On the other hand, this is clearly a terrible seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be actually banning workers from making use of text that (perhaps?) indicate they are performing one thing the firm doesn’t like, or that maybe just point out that the company’s work requirements are not up to snuff.

But actually, what strikes me most about this prepare is how ham-fisted it is. I imply, keyword phrases? Severely? Really do not we presently know — and if we all know, then absolutely Amazon understands — that social media platforms make probable a lot, significantly extra advanced approaches of influencing people’s behaviour? We have presently seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. When compared to that, this supposed checklist of naughty text appears like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions really should seriously be concerned about is employer-delivered platforms that really don’t explicitly ban words, but that subtly shape person expertise based on their use of those people phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly endeavor to impact a nationwide election that way, could not an employer very believably goal at shaping a unionization vote in comparable fasion?

As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The capacity to speak brazenly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your corporation stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of business enterprise ethics as very essential. If you can not communicate about it, how possible are you to be to be in a position to do it?


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