A new report from The Intercept suggests that a new in-property messaging app for Amazon employees could ban a lengthy string of terms, which includes “ethics.” Most of the words and phrases on the record are ones that a disgruntled staff would use — conditions like “union” and “compensation” and “pay elevate.” In accordance to a leaked document reviewed by The Intercept, 1 function of the messaging app (nevertheless in progress) would be “An automatic word monitor would also block a assortment of phrases that could symbolize opportunity critiques of Amazon’s performing problems.” Amazon, of study course, is not particularly a admirer of unions, and has used (again, per the Intercept) a ton of money on “anti-union consultants.”

So, what to say about this naughty listing?

On just one hand, it’s straightforward to see why a corporation would want not to offer personnel with a software that would assist them do anything not in the company’s curiosity. I suggest, if you want to arrange — or even only complain — utilizing your Gmail account or Sign or Telegram, that’s one particular thing. But if you want to obtain that target by employing an application that the company supplies for inner organization needs, the firm possibly has a teensy bit of a authentic criticism.

On the other hand, this is plainly a bad glimpse for Amazon — it is unseemly, if not unethical, to be virtually banning staff members from working with phrases that (possibly?) reveal they’re executing anything the business doesn’t like, or that maybe just point out that the company’s employment requirements are not up to snuff.

But actually, what strikes me most about this program is how ham-fisted it is. I mean, keywords? Significantly? Really don’t we previously know — and if we all know, then unquestionably Amazon appreciates — that social media platforms make possible a lot, substantially extra sophisticated means of influencing people’s conduct? We’ve already seen the use of Facebook to manipulate elections, and even our thoughts. In comparison to that, this meant list of naughty words and phrases appears like Dr Evil trying to outfit sharks with laser-beams. What unions really should truly be fearful about is employer-provided platforms that really do not explicitly ban terms, but that subtly form user knowledge dependent on their use of people terms. If Cambridge Analytica could plausibly attempt to affect a nationwide election that way, couldn’t an employer really believably purpose at shaping a unionization vote in very similar fasion?

As for banning the word “ethics,” I can only shake my head. The means to speak openly about ethics — about values, about concepts, about what your firm stands for, is regarded by most scholars and consultants in the realm of enterprise ethics as very elementary. If you can’t chat about it, how possible are you to be to be able to do it?

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