Amazon Won’t Let Employees Use Words Like ‘Union’, ‘Restrooms’, ‘Slave’, ‘Prison’ on Planned Messaging App

Amazon is working on an internal messaging app that will ban words that reflect the company’s working conditions or organising labour unions. The app, sort of a social media platform specifically for Amazon employees, will have a content filter that will ban words such as “union”, “prison”, “slave labour”, “diversity” as well as “restrooms” presumably to prohibit employees from discussing that they relieved themselves in bottles to meet punishing deadlines, according to a new report based on the company’s internal documents. Last year, Amazon had apologised to a US lawmaker after falsely denying that some of its drivers were forced at times to urinate in plastic bottles.

Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, had called out Amazon in a tweet for paying low and making “workers urinate in water bottles”. Amazon had quickly responded on Twitter, denying that its workers had to relieve themselves in bottles to meet quotas.

But several workers came out to say they had to use plastic bottles. Amazon then apologised to the lawmaker but shirked responsibility by saying it was “a long-standing, industry-wide issue”.

The new report about the internal messaging app by The Intercept is likely to create more trouble for Amazon. The report said the content filter would ban words like “unfair,” “master,” “slave,” “injustice,” “ethics,” “diversity,” “fairness,” “pay raise,” and phrases like “this is dumb” or “this is concerning”, in addition to slurs and swear words.

However, according to an Amazon spokesperson, this programme has not yet been approved and may change drastically or never start at all. The spokesperson said that teams at Amazon were constantly brainstorming innovative ways to help employees engage with one another.

Amazon executives met in November last year reportedly to discuss the creation of a messaging app that would allow employees to highlight each others’ work by creating posts called “Shout-Outs”. During the meeting, they also discussed “the dark side of social media” and agreed to monitor employees’ posts on the platform. It was there that they devised a list of “bad” words, said the report.

The Amazon spokesperson added that there are “no plans” for many of the “bad” words or phrases that The Intercept has reported. The app will screen only those words that “are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team,” the spokesperson added.

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