September 25, 2023

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

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

A new report from The Intercept indicates that a new in-home messaging application for Amazon workers could ban a prolonged string of words and phrases, including “ethics.” Most of the phrases on the list are types that a disgruntled personnel would use — conditions like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” In accordance to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, a person element of the messaging app (nonetheless in advancement) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a assortment of terms that could symbolize opportunity critiques of Amazon’s working ailments.” Amazon, of class, is not exactly a admirer of unions, and has used (all over again, per the Intercept) a good deal of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty record?

On just one hand, it is uncomplicated to see why a firm would want not to supply staff members with a tool that would help them do a thing not in the company’s curiosity. I suggest, if you want to organize — or even only complain — utilizing your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s just one detail. But if you want to obtain that goal by working with an application that the firm presents for interior enterprise applications, the business possibly has a teensy bit of a authentic grievance.

On the other hand, this is plainly a bad glance for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be practically banning personnel from employing phrases that (probably?) suggest they’re performing anything the business doesn’t like, or that perhaps just reveal that the company’s work specifications are not up to snuff.

But really, what strikes me most about this approach is how ham-fisted it is. I mean, key terms? Severely? Don’t we now know — and if we all know, then unquestionably Amazon appreciates — that social media platforms make doable considerably, substantially much more subtle approaches of influencing people’s behaviour? We have now seen the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. As opposed to that, this meant record of naughty phrases looks like Dr Evil hoping to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions need to truly be fearful about is employer-furnished platforms that do not explicitly ban terms, but that subtly shape user encounter based mostly on their use of individuals words. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to influence a national election that way, couldn’t an employer fairly believably intention at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?

As for banning the term “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to converse brazenly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your firm stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of business ethics as rather basic. If you cannot discuss about it, how most likely are you to be to be ready to do it?

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

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