Seeing Its Future, Google Drops The Problematic "Don't Be Evil" Motto

To be evil or not to be evil?

Google has burrowed its feet deep into the internet history with its "don't be evil" motto, which has been around since early 2000. The motto was all this time Google's philosophy, and was "also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors," according to Google Engineer Amit Patel in 1999.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin said that the "don't be evil" culture prohibited conflicts of interest, and required objectivity and an absence of bias.

As of early 2018, the motto was still cited in the preface to Google's Code of Conduct. But between April 21 and May 4, 2018, the company started to remove the motto, leaving only a mention of it in the final line:

"And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!"

Google argues that the the phrase remains in the code. Although only at the end, it shows that it's still "foundational."

But still, people saw this coming. The low-key creepy-sounding mantra was never meant to be a declaration of human rights. Coined by former Googler Paul Buchheit, the motto was born when the world wanted to see Google as something big.

The web was still young, and so was Google.

"Don't be evil" here fit to describe Google as a company that wants to give best search engine results which are unbiased.

But Google is a company that earns money from advertising, and that is by relying on knowing as much about its users as possible. "Don't be evil" became a phrase that is too dangerous to keep.


What's more, Google has grown from a small startup with a single search engine product, to a multi-billion dollar company with everything from software, hardware and automobiles.

It's becoming more difficult for Google to position itself as "don't be evil" company when it's having to collect more and more users data, mine rare earth mineral to produce smartphone components, create AI that is probably going to replace jobs, and so forth.

And most recently, helping the government in making AI for military drones.

Google started re-positioning itself when it restructured to Alphabet in 2015. This was the first time that the company tried to move away from the problematic motto.

With the company starting to cease the motto, as well as from the context of the sentence, Google puts the phrase more like a gesture, not anymore its central principle or mission.

From how the world sees it, Google is maturing, and it doesn't want some phrase to drag its feet from meeting the future.