Amazon wanted to ban workers from saying ‘union’, ‘living wage’ and ‘freedom’ on its chat app

A proposed messaging app for Amazon employees would have blocked words and phrases such as “union”, “harassment”, “pay raise” and “toilet”, according to leaked documents revealed on Monday.

Posts seen by The interception showed that executives at the online retail giant designed the company’s social media network as a way to improve employee satisfaction through messages and virtual rewards called “Shout-Outs”.

But following a November 2021 meeting on the project, Amazon officials pushed for the app to feature a content filter to avoid “the dark side of social media”.

While the proposed filter would remove offensive language, it also featured words related to organized labor like “grievance”, “injustice”, “living wage” and “fairness” on its so-called “automatic bad word monitoring”.

“With free text, we risk writing Shout-Outs that generate negative feelings among viewers and receivers,” an Amazon document reportedly said.

“We want to tend to be restrictive on the content that can be posted to avoid a negative experience for associates.”

In a statement, Amazon said the proposed messaging app has not been approved or launched, “and may change significantly or never launch at all.”

“The only types of words that can be filtered are those that are offensive or harassing, that are meant to protect our team,” a company spokesperson said.

Last week, workers at Amazon warehouses in Staten Island, New York, voted to form a union, a first for the company’s American workforce.

The vote to unionize came after Amazon filings revealed it had spent about $4.2 million (€3.8 million) on labor consultants last year, which, according to union organizers, were responsible for persuading workers not to unionize.

Michael A. Bynum