Wednesday 26th September 2018

Google drops “don’t be evil” phrase from its code of conduct

The motto is increasingly leveraged to disparage the tech giant and it has now been relegated to the periphery of its code of conduct.
Jason Smith
by on 19th May 2018

Google has as good as confined its widely recognized motto, “don’t be evil,” to the scrapheap of internet history, according to a Gizmodo analysis of the company’s code of conduct.

In an age when company mission statements have become ever less memorable and ever more highfalutin – Starbuck’s mission statement is now: “to inspire and nurture the human spirit” – Google’s motto was often revered for its simplicity.

However, despite achieving widespread recognition, and seemingly spurring mission statements to become more about societal issues than commercial objectives, the motto has recently been leveraged to disparage the organization.

For example, Gizmodo ran with an article in 2012 declaring, “the end of don’t be evil,” the late Steve Jobs famously called the motto “bullshit” back in 2010 and New York Magazine recently invoked the motto to criticize Google over taxation.

Overall, it’s fair to say the motto was becoming counter-productive, which is possibly why Alphabet, the search engine’s parent company, officially dropped it back in 2015 and in favour of “do the right thing”.

However, its original motto also began to acquire a purpose beyond what the man who coined the term, Paul Buchheit, had ever intended.

Buchheit simply utilized the term to create distance between Google and what he saw as the less reputable side of the web, notably that which deals in spam or spyware, arguably however it came to characterize Google’s culture, one which, outwardly at least, was recognized for prioritizing creativity ahead of convention.

According to an archive of Google’s code of conduct available on the Wayback Machine, the motto took pride of place at the beginning of the first sentence of its code of conduct up until April of this year.

A single mention of the phrase still exists at the bottom of Google’s code of conduct, however its demotion to the periphery, as well as the context of the sentence, makes its inclusion look more like a gesture than the central principle or mission of the maturing search giant.