Google quietly removes ‘don’t be evil’ preface from code of conduct

Google employees resigned this month over the company's autonomous weapons project

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 21 May 2018 12:21 BST
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The most famous phrase in Google’s corporate philosophy, “Don’t be evil,” has been almost entirely removed from the technology giant’s code of conduct.

Google, which is now a subsidiary of Alphabet after a corporate restructuring in 2015, previously included the phrase “Don’t be evil” at the very start of its code, and another two times within the first two paragraphs.

The simple language was replaced by vague and less specific wording such as “ethical business conduct”.

“The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Google’s values into practice,” the updated guidelines begins.

“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.”

The famous motto is now included only once in the 6,313-word document, right at the very end as a final aside: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”

The updated code of conduct comes as artificial intelligence researchers call for Google to abandon a project developing AI technology for the military.

Google's refusal to cut ties with the US military led to the resignation of around a dozen employees from the company, who cited ethical concerns and warned that autonomous weapons directly contradicted the firm's famous 'Don't be evil' motto.

In a letter signed by more than 3,100 Google employees last month, the workers stated: "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war... We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties," referring to the company's involvement in a controversial Pentagon program called Project Maven.

"Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicise and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology."

Google had not responded to a request for comment on the demotion of the phrase at the time of publication. This article will be updated if a response is received.

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