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Google erases ‘Don’t be evil’ from code of conduct after 18 years

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At some point in the past month, Google removed its famous ‘Don’t be evil’ motto from the introduction to its code of conduct.

As spotted by Gizmodo, the phrase was dropped from the preface of Google’s code of conduct in late April or early May.

Until then, ‘Don’t be evil’ were the first words of the opening and closing sentences of Google’s code of conduct and have been part of it since 2000.

The phase occasionally guides debate within the company. The 4,000 staff protesting Google’s work for the Pentagon’s AI Project Maven referred to the motto to highlight how the contract conflicted with the company’s values.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, also adopted and still retains a variant of the motto in the form of ‘Do the right thing’.

A copy of the Google’s Code of Conduct page from April 21 on the Wayback Machine shows the old version.

“‘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 whole first paragraph has been removed from the current Code of Conduct page, which now begins with:

“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.”

While the phrase no longer leads Google’s code of conduct, one remnant remains at the end.

“And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up.”

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