A new report from The Intercept implies that a new in-property messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a long string of phrases, including “ethics.” Most of the words on the list are kinds that a disgruntled personnel would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, a person aspect of the messaging application (however in advancement) would be “An automatic term monitor would also block a variety of terms that could signify prospective critiques of Amazon’s performing problems.” Amazon, of course, is not precisely a supporter of unions, and has put in (yet again, for every the Intercept) a great deal of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”
So, what to say about this naughty checklist?
On a single hand, it is easy to see why a company would want not to offer workers with a device that would enable them do anything not in the company’s desire. I imply, if you want to organize — or even basically complain — making use of your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, which is one factor. But if you want to obtain that aim by utilizing an application that the firm offers for inner small business purposes, the organization perhaps has a teensy little bit of a legitimate grievance.
On the other hand, this is clearly a bad search for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be actually banning employees from working with phrases that (perhaps?) indicate they’re accomplishing a thing the organization does not like, or that maybe just point out that the company’s work requirements aren’t up to snuff.
But definitely, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I necessarily mean, search phrases? Significantly? Really do not we presently know — and if we all know, then undoubtedly Amazon is aware of — that social media platforms make possible substantially, significantly more subtle techniques of influencing people’s behaviour? We have currently witnessed the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our feelings. Compared to that, this meant checklist of naughty terms would seem like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions should really truly be worried about is employer-delivered platforms that never explicitly ban terms, but that subtly condition consumer expertise based mostly on their use of those phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to influence a national election that way, couldn’t an employer fairly believably aim at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?
As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to discuss overtly about ethics — about values, about principles, about what your firm stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of business enterprise ethics as quite essential. If you can’t chat about it, how possible are you to be to be capable to do it?
(Thanks to MB for pointing me to this story.)