The Intercept reports that Amazon is working on a chat app designed to be used by its employees with the goal of boosting morale. That in itself is pretty humdrum stuff. But the reason the story is generating attention is because the Intercept also says Amazon plans to make some words and terms off-limits within the app itself. A sampling of them will provide a sense of things:
- Living wage
- Restroom (thought to be a reference to this controversy)
- Slave labor
The list is longer and can be seen in full at the Intercept. The implication of the story is that Amazon will use a filter to red-flag certain words and thus prevent workers from addressing dicey issues such as unionization. A company spokesperson responds that the idea for a chat app "has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all," adding: "If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words you're calling out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team."
As the Hill notes, this is a particularly pivotal time for Amazon and its workers, given that warehouse employees in Staten Island just formed the first-ever union within the company. "While this app isn't about to hinder union organizers (they weren't likely to use Amazon-monitored chats), it could underscore the very labor concerns the company doesn't want employees to mention," writes J. Fingas at Engadget. Adds Emma Roth at the Verge: "What better way to address employee concerns than to banish them into nonexistence?" (Read more Amazon stories.)