A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-dwelling messaging app for Amazon personnel could ban a extended string of terms, like “ethics.” Most of the phrases on the list are ones that a disgruntled employee would use — phrases like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” In accordance to a leaked doc reviewed by The Intercept, one feature of the messaging application (however in growth) would be “An automatic phrase monitor would also block a assortment of conditions that could symbolize opportunity critiques of Amazon’s functioning conditions.” Amazon, of class, is not accurately a lover of unions, and has invested (yet again, per the Intercept) a good deal of dollars on “anti-union consultants.”
So, what to say about this naughty list?
On just one hand, it is effortless to see why a enterprise would want not to deliver staff with a tool that would help them do anything not in the company’s interest. I indicate, if you want to organize — or even basically complain — working with your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, which is 1 point. But if you want to obtain that purpose by utilizing an application that the firm delivers for inner business purposes, the corporation probably has a teensy little bit of a respectable grievance.
On the other hand, this is obviously a negative seem for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be practically banning staff members from applying phrases that (perhaps?) reveal they’re executing a thing the company doesn’t like, or that it’s possible just show that the company’s employment benchmarks are not up to snuff.
But definitely, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I suggest, search phrases? Critically? Do not we by now know — and if we all know, then surely Amazon knows — that social media platforms make feasible a lot, a lot a lot more refined means of influencing people’s behaviour? We have by now found the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. In contrast to that, this supposed record of naughty text looks like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions need to really be concerned about is employer-offered platforms that never explicitly ban words, but that subtly condition person expertise based mostly on their use of those text. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to affect a nationwide election that way, couldn’t an employer pretty believably goal at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?
As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The potential to speak openly about ethics — about values, about rules, about what your enterprise stands for, is regarded by most students and consultants in the realm of organization ethics as pretty essential. If you simply cannot discuss about it, how possible are you to be to be in a position to do it?
(Many thanks to MB for pointing me to this story.)