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Amazon Reportedly Trying to Block Specific Words Used by Employees

The Intercept reported this week that Amazon is developing an internal chat app that will flag employee posts and ban certain words. The proposed automatic word blocker will prevent workers from using words and terms such as “slave labor,” “prison,” “plantation,” and even “restrooms.” The last word is possibly related to rumors that Amazon employees must go to the bathroom in bottles to save time and meet their quotas.

The initial idea reportedly came about when an executive suggested a social media program for employees to recognize accomplishments (“Shout-Outs”) by their coworkers. If workers are happier because they have stronger connections with each other, then maybe fewer employees will leave. Some officials reportedly expressed concern about employee comments turning negative, which led to the app’s word monitor. While some proposed banned words, such as profanities and inappropriate words, may serve the goal of a positive community, others seem to serve Amazon’s interest in avoiding unions. Other words that may be banned include “union,” “grievance,” “pay raise,” “compensation,” “ethics,” “unfair,” “slave,” “master,” “freedom,” “diversity,” “injustice,” and “fairness.” A document introducing the program states, “With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers. We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”

An Amazon spokesperson told The Intercept, “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.” Amazon also denied that many of the words listed by The Intercept would be screened out.