Amazon denies plan to censor words like ‘union’, ‘slave labour’ and ‘pay rise’ from internal messaging

Managers would also have authority to manually flag and block messages sent on a planned messaging app

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 05 April 2022 22:15 BST
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Amazon says it doesn’t intend to censor verboten phrases floated for an “auto bad word monitor” in a planned internal messaging app.

"Union", "slave labour", "prison" and "plantation" were among a blacklist of inappropriate words or profanities highlighted in an internal document to be automatically blocked from the app, according to The Intercept.

Managers would also have the authority to manually flag or suppress any messages they find inappropriate.

While a pilot is scheduled to launch later this month, an Amazon spokeswoman told The Independent that there are no plans for many of the words called out in the document to be screened if the internal messaging app does officially launch.

“This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all,” Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said.

"The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team,” she added.

Amazon did not add which words would or would not be included on the "offensive" blacklist to be flagged by the app. Messages containing the words would be prevented from being sent between employees.

Many of the phrases on the leaked document relate to workplace conditions, including “grievance”, “pay raise”, “compensation”, “ethics”, “unfair”, “slave”, “master”, “freedom”, “diversity”, “injustice,” and "restrooms".

The phrase “this is concerning” is also on the planning document, which stemmed from a November 2021 meeting to discuss the internal social media program, according to an anonymous source quoted in the report.

Company officials were warned of the "dark side of social media" during the meeting, which led to the blacklist being devised to sanitize its posts, or what the company would call "Shout-Outs".

“With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers,” the leaked document noted.

“We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”

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