Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Amazon: Sale of revisionist and Holocaust-denying books (2013)

Ethics Case Controversy 
A book denying the fact that the
Holocaust was a true event
On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) demanded from Amazon.com the removal of books that denied the Holocaust and promoted anti-Semitism and white supremacy. The WJC is an international organization that represents the Jewish communities and organizations in 100 countries around the world. Robert Singer, executive vice president and CEO of WJC, emailed Jeff Bezos directly. Singer basically calls out the hypocritical policy that Amazon tries to appear to uphold with respect to cultural sensitivity. Amazon has not yet responded to this email or any other requests for comments.

In this specific case, the stakeholders of Amazon, are not just the top-level management such as Jeff Bezos, but anybody especially the consumers who use Amazon who are offended by their actions. It directly affects the customers who are personally offended because of Amazon’s reluctance to show action, it deters them and any other potential customers away from pursuing any business with Amazon in the future. This of course affects the top executives of Amazon who represent the company and its decisions, because it shines the company in a negative light due to all the media exposure.

On paper according to Individualism, they were acting ethically; however, the actual reality of the outcome backfired. The negative attention towards Amazon from the consumer demographic that felt personally offended and all their supporters worked against their shot at profit. The fact that people were disgusted and disappointed with how Amazon handled or just refused to even acknowledge any sort of racial or cultural sensitivity dissuades people from using their site. The reason that Amazon’s actions may at first be inclined to follow Friedman’s Individualism but not work in practice is an example of one of Individualism flaws. It doesn’t take into account the motivation of customers and employees to choose socially responsible business. The stakeholders would consider Amazon to not be socially responsible in this case, and therefore be less motivated to conduct business with them, decreasing profit.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Amazon did not act according to the Utilitarian standards. Since many people, especially those of Jewish descent and those affiliated with the WJC were offended, the Amazon’s action of not removing those texts generated a great deal of unhappiness. Many customers or potential customers could feel unhappy with just how Amazon failed to uphold their policy on offensive products that violate cultural sensitivity. Although it is impossible to say how much happiness or if any at all was produced because of the Holocaust denial texts. However, it is very reasonable to say that there was an overall net of unhappiness that resulted from Amazon’s refusal to take action. Which means that according to Utilitarianism, their actions or lack thereof were unethical.

According to Kantianism standards, Amazon’s action is considered unethical and did originate from the Good Will. The motivation for Amazon’s decision to not remove the Holocaust denial texts also did not come from any duty or moral law, therefore their motivation was unethical because it wasn’t associated with the Good Will. Their so called “motivation” for allowing these products to be sold on their site, is because they choose to exercise their “legal” right to freedom of speech within legal bounds.

Virtue Theory 
WJC (World Jewish Congress) logo
Amazon was not basing their decisions on any positive business virtues and being virtuous therefore would be considered unethical. They have either no or not enough remorse to elicit action, even if an actual Holocaust survivor was offended that Amazon let these kinds of products be sold and transported to anywhere around the world. It most certainly reflects upon them as company as a whole, making them a poor role model for any sort of moral leadership. A vice that Amazon has shown to carry as proof from this scenario is of selfishness and carelessness. This self-serving attitude is proved because the only time Amazon decides to make a change that requires any effort on their part is when they receive enough flak that they can no longer seemingly avoid the problem.

Justified Ethics Evaluation
I agree with some aspect of Amazon’s decisions relating to the censorship of their products. Their known success and staying power as a competitive business in their corporate culture is proof enough that their business model works. So, I agree with them from an Individualism point of view and admire their boldness towards non-censorship. However, I disagree from my own ethical point of view and am personally disappointed with their business morals. In my opinion, there are very few things that are more culturally sensitive than one of the worst racial genocides in history being promoted through texts by supporters of the racist enemy side. There is no justice in that, there is no question of morality to me concerning this matter; it is wrong solely because it only promotes the freedom of hate speech.

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