Google has discretely removed its famous “don’t be evil” motto from its code of conduct – a significant change considering the company has prided itself on the motto and the mantra that accompanied it for to decades. The move comes in the midst of a revolt at the tech giant as employees insist the firm ceases involvement with the US Department of Defence.
Does this change signal a move to a darker, more sinister company vision, or is it an innocent alteration to its charter?
Good Google Gone Bad…
The removal of the famous motto from Google’s Code of Conduct has sparked fears that the company is moving in a direction that many employees – and people worldwide – might not like. Alterations to the charter – which was developed in 2004 by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and distributed to employees – is alleged to have taken place at some point between between late April and early May of this year, as Gizmodo revealed through archives hosted by the Wayback Machine website.
Although the motto has been largely omitted in the new code of conduct, there is a small reference to it in the final line, which says: “And remember…don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”
“Speak up” is precisely what Google employees have been doing as of late, with over 3,000 signing an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that he and other top-level executives pull the Silicon Valley giant out of a deal with the US Department of Defence; one that involves Google providing controversial drone operations with open source deep learning technology and also engineering expertise.
The revolt by employees was last week supported by hundreds of academics in another open letter published by the International Committee for Robot Arms Control – an organisation founded by researchers concerned about the terrifying rise of autonomous weapon systems.
A Motto and a Mantra
“Don’t be evil” has been an integral component of Google’s business model since 2000, with the motto reportedly being used at the WiFi password on the buses that shuttle employees to and from the Mountain View headquarters in California. In 2015, Google morphed into a new holding company, known as Alphabet. It was at this stage that the company suggested adjusting the motto to “do the right thing”, adding that employees should “follow the law, act honourably, and treat each other with respect.”
Alphabet appears to have had its way with the rewording of the famous brand motto. Although the remnants of the motto remain at the end of the new charter, could this signal a culture change at Google?
Sundar Pichai highlighted a concerted push toward greater use of artificial intelligence at the 2018 I/O Conference, and perhaps the firm’s long-term aim is world domination through evil AI, or some kind of star killer base.