A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-home messaging app for Amazon staff members could ban a extended string of terms, which includes “ethics.” Most of the text on the checklist are ones that a disgruntled worker would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay raise.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, a single aspect of the messaging app (however in development) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a variety of terms that could signify likely critiques of Amazon’s operating disorders.” Amazon, of system, is not just a fan of unions, and has invested (yet again, for each the Intercept) a lot of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”
So, what to say about this naughty record?
On just one hand, it is quick to see why a company would want not to provide staff with a instrument that would enable them do a little something not in the company’s curiosity. I imply, if you want to manage — or even just complain — using your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that is a person thing. But if you want to attain that intention by working with an app that the firm delivers for interior company functions, the organization maybe has a teensy bit of a legitimate criticism.
On the other hand, this is obviously a poor appear for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be literally banning staff from applying text that (maybe?) suggest they’re undertaking a little something the corporation does not like, or that perhaps just indicate that the company’s employment expectations aren’t up to snuff.
But seriously, what strikes me most about this plan is how ham-fisted it is. I indicate, keywords? Seriously? Really do not we now know — and if we all know, then absolutely Amazon is familiar with — that social media platforms make probable significantly, much a lot more sophisticated strategies of influencing people’s behaviour? We have now witnessed the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. As opposed to that, this supposed checklist of naughty words would seem like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions ought to genuinely be worried about is employer-presented platforms that don’t explicitly ban terms, but that subtly form user knowledge based on their use of those people terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to affect a national election that way, could not an employer quite believably goal at shaping a unionization vote in similar fasion?
As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The ability to speak overtly about ethics — about values, about principles, about what your corporation stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of small business ethics as very elementary. If you simply cannot talk about it, how probable are you to be to be in a position to do it?
(Thanks to MB for pointing me to this story.)