“Don’t be evil.”
The three words that have been part of Google’s motto for the last 17 years also encapsulate how much of Silicon Valley sees itself—doing what is right and just, but a bit edgier than previous stodgy titans of capitalism.
However, the ubiquitous search engine has now removed “Don’t be evil” from its official code of conduct. According to a Gizmodo reporter who used the Wayback machine to check time stamps, at some point between late April and early May, references to the slogan in the document were removed except for one brief mention.
A version of the code’s preface archived on April 21 opens with these two paragraphs:
“Don’t be evil.” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But “Don’t be evil” is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally – following the law, acting honorably, and treating co-workers with courtesy and respect.
The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put “Don’t be evil” into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.
The revised document, which ditches “Don’t be evil,” opens this way:
The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Google’s values into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Respect for our users, for the opportunity, and for each other are foundational to our success, and are something we need to support every day.
So please do read the Code and Google’s values, and follow both in spirit and letter, always bearing in mind that each of us has a personal responsibility to incorporate, and to encourage other Googlers to incorporate, the principles of the Code and values into our work. And if you have a question or ever think that one of your fellow Googlers or the company as a whole may be falling short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want – and need – to hear from you.
The very end of the code includes the following line:
And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!
The “Don’t be evil” ethos originated with Google’s employees back in 2001 as a way to express the company’s values succinctly without sounding like corporate boilerplate. However, now Google has become the massive, powerful company that its first employees may not have envisioned.
The tech company is also under fire from regulators and a range of critics—with some calling for it to be broken up. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently urged the Justice Department to review the power that firms like Google have over the American economy, Bloomberg reports.