We're doomed! Google erases 'Don't be evil' motto from its code of conduct document

It's not like the motto has avoided being 'evil' in the past, it's just been clear that Google has its own definition of evil.

Google Inc has removed its famous ‘Don’t be evil’ motto from its code of conduct and has replaced it with a bunch of text that doesn't say the same thing.

The Google logo. Reuters

The Google logo. Reuters

Google, just like any other successful internet business, has gone out of its way to try and dominate the market, but kept that foundational motto in its corporate code of conduct since 2010. According to a Gizmodo report, that line was replaced with 'Do the right thing' in 2015, and was later removed completely.

According to The Wayback Machine, the previous code of conduct reads...

“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.

It's not like the motto has avoided being "evil" in the past, it's just been clear that Google has its own definition of evil. Misusing its monopoly and tax avoidance are only two examples of Google's ethically questionable actions in the past.

For instance, even when Google promoted the 'Don't be evil' motto, it was found guilty of favouring its own shopping services at the cost of other search services in the European Union. This antitrust case was also extended to the Adsense case in 2016, where it was accused of blocking online search to favour its own. Similarly, Bharat Matrimony and Consumer Unity and Trust Society filed a case against the Google to the Competition Commission of India for search bias and abusing its dominant search engine position.

Later in 2017, Google got into hot water over an employee's internal memo that used far-fetched arguments to justify the existence of a gender pay gap. While the employee was fired, Google is still dealing with a lawsuit from  female employees over an alleged gender pay gap.

Google's new code of conduct is as follows:

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.

The biggest example of Google turning "evil" however, is that of several employees quitting over Google's continued support of a US govt-sponsored AI-weaponisation program involving drones. The employees claimed that a culture-shift in Google contributed to their decision to quit. According to the employees, Google was becoming increasingly secretive about its business dealings and had stopped listening to employee feedback.

Are we doomed? Is this a sign of things to come? Only time will tell.

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