A new report from The Intercept indicates that a new in-property messaging app for Amazon staff members could ban a long string of terms, together with “ethics.” Most of the words on the list are types that a disgruntled employee would use — terms like “union” and “compensation” and “pay increase.” According to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, 1 feature of the messaging application (nevertheless in enhancement) would be “An automatic word monitor would also block a wide variety of phrases that could symbolize probable critiques of Amazon’s operating situations.” Amazon, of course, is not particularly a admirer of unions, and has put in (once more, per the Intercept) a lot of revenue on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty checklist?

On one hand, it is quick to see why a company would want not to provide employees with a instrument that would support them do anything not in the company’s fascination. I mean, if you want to arrange — or even only complain — using your Gmail account or Signal or Telegram, which is a single matter. But if you want to obtain that objective by employing an application that the organization offers for inner organization needs, the organization it’s possible has a teensy bit of a legit grievance.

On the other hand, this is obviously a lousy look for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning employees from making use of text that (maybe?) reveal they’re doing a thing the company does not like, or that possibly just reveal that the company’s work expectations are not up to snuff.

But genuinely, what strikes me most about this approach is how ham-fisted it is. I mean, keywords? Significantly? Don’t we by now know — and if we all know, then certainly Amazon appreciates — that social media platforms make achievable a great deal, a great deal far more subtle approaches of influencing people’s conduct? We have by now viewed the use of Fb to manipulate elections, and even our emotions. In contrast to that, this supposed listing of naughty text seems like Dr Evil striving to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions ought to genuinely be worried about is employer-offered platforms that really do not explicitly ban text, but that subtly condition person expertise centered on their use of individuals phrases. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly try to affect a national election that way, couldn’t an employer quite believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in equivalent fasion?

As for banning the phrase “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The ability to converse brazenly about ethics — about values, about ideas, about what your business stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of organization ethics as very basic. If you can’t communicate about it, how likely are you to be to be ready to do it?

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


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