“Don’t be evil” has been a part of Google’s Code of Conduct since 2000. However, that phrase, “Don’t be evil” has been removed from the top of Google’s Code of Conduct.
The encouragement to not be evil is not gone. It’s simply not the major focus of Google’s Code of Conduct anymore.
The phrase “Don’t be evil” was previously the preface to Google’s Code of Conduct. Now the phrase “Don’t be evil” is in the concluding statement of Google’s Code of Conduct (as before), like a coda.
Encouragement to Don’t Be Evil Remains
There have been click-baity news reports stating that “Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Clause From Its Code of Conduct” but that is not entirely accurate.
Google has not removed that clause. Google has removed it from the preface, resulting in more attention to the word respect. But it still remains at the end of the document as before.
Formerly the word evil appeared four times in Google’s Code of Conduct. Now it appears just one time, at the end.
So instead of bookending the code of conduct with the encouragement to not be evil, Google’s new Code of Conduct focuses on respect and uses the phrase as a concluding statement, ending with with same phrase as before:
“And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”
Is Don’t Be Evil Gone from Google?
No. Google’s famous exhortation to “Don’t be evil” is not removed. It is still there.
What has changed is that the entire first paragraph that included “don’t be evil” has been removed and a portion of the second paragraph was rewritten.
Here is the part that was removed:
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.”
And this is how Google’s Code of Conduct now begins:
“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.”
Google De-Emphasizes the Word Trust
The word trust was also de-emphasized from the beginning of the Code of Conduct and replaced with the word, respect. The first version formerly declared this statement about trust:
“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 new version now highlights the word respect:
“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.”
The Word “Respect” Rises in Importance
This is an interesting change. I believe the word Respect acknowledges the changes in society brought by the Me Too movement and reflects the state of cultural politics in 2018 where disrespect of cultures and races are prevalent in certain circles of American society.
Reflection of Google’s Ongoing Discrimination Issues
Respect has always been a major part of Google’s Code of Conduct. But because of it’s placement in the document beneath the “Don’t be evil” phrase, it seemed as if it was in second place.
With the change of the Don’t be evil motto to just a concluding statement, the ideal of respect can now be seen as a more important aspect of Google’s Code of Conduct.
A lawsuit filed against Google in February 2018 (reported in USAToday) is a reminder of how American society is in a moment of cultural change. Even though Google’s Code of Conduct formally advises respect, a former Google engineer filed a lawsuit against Google claiming he was fired for:
“…defending women, people of color and LGBTQ employees from attacks and for championing transgender and disabled rights on Google’s message boards.”
A Google employee had posted the following on Google’s internal message board:
“”If we have fewer Black and Latin@ people here, doesn’t that mean they’re not as good?” Other Google employees suggested that Google would have to lower the qualifications to work at the company to hire underrepresented minorities.”
As you can see, Google may have an internal problem with issues of respect. That’s just one example of Google’s internal issues with employees. That may be a reason why the word respect seems to hold a more prominent position in Google’s Code of Conduct.
Comparison of Google’s Codes of Conduct:
Google’s Previous Code of Conduct
Note the first paragraph of the code of conduct and the word Preface that indicates that the “Don’t be evil” slogan is part of the preface.
Google’s Current Code of Conduct
Note that the entire first paragraph and the word preface have been removed. The slogan “Don’t be evil” remains exactly the same in the section titled, Conclusion.
Don’t Be Evil is Still a Part of Google’s Culture
The slogan about not being evil always seemed to me like a slogan representative of idealistic youth. It’s a great ideal and I share the sentiment. Google’s reconsideration of the motto as more of a final statement than a preface may represent a more mature outlook at Google.
The focus on respect while still holding on to the ideal of not being evil represents Google taking a pragmatic estimation of itself, how it has grown and and perhaps a statement of the direction Google aspires to.
Not being evil remains a part of Google’s journey.
Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author