A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-household messaging application for Amazon employees could ban a extended string of phrases, such as “ethics.” Most of the terms on the list are kinds that a disgruntled staff would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, one feature of the messaging app (however in progress) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a wide range of terms that could signify opportunity critiques of Amazon’s doing the job ailments.” Amazon, of training course, is not accurately a fan of unions, and has expended (again, for every the Intercept) a good deal of funds on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty record?

On 1 hand, it’s simple to see why a organization would want not to provide personnel with a device that would assistance them do anything not in the company’s curiosity. I suggest, if you want to arrange — or even merely complain — working with your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, that’s one particular thing. But if you want to obtain that purpose by applying an application that the business delivers for internal small business applications, the corporation maybe has a teensy bit of a authentic complaint.

On the other hand, this is clearly a undesirable seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be practically banning workers from employing terms that (it’s possible?) suggest they’re accomplishing some thing the company doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just suggest that the company’s work specifications are not up to snuff.

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But definitely, what strikes me most about this system is how ham-fisted it is. I suggest, keywords? Critically? Really don’t we by now know — and if we all know, then undoubtedly Amazon knows — that social media platforms make doable considerably, a great deal additional innovative ways of influencing people’s behaviour? We have previously seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. When compared to that, this supposed list of naughty words appears to be like Dr Evil attempting to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions must definitely be worried about is employer-presented platforms that never explicitly ban text, but that subtly shape consumer encounter dependent on their use of people terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to influence a national election that way, could not an employer really believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in similar fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to chat openly about ethics — about values, about rules, about what your firm stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of small business ethics as rather elementary. If you just cannot chat about it, how likely are you to be to be capable to do it?


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

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