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Google quietly removes its famous "don't be evil" phrase from its code of conduct

The phrase was part of Google's code of conduct for almost two decades.

Published onMay 21, 2018

A Google logo.
  • Google has quietly removed its unofficial “don’t be evil” motto from its code of conduct’s preface.
  • The phrase can still be found at the bottom, but it only appears once.
  • “Don’t be evil” was part of Google’s code of conduct for almost two decades.

“Don’t be evil” is a good phrase to live by, but it has also been part of Google’s code of conduct since 2000. As spotted by Gizmodo, however, Google has quietly removed the original language from its code of conduct.

Archived by the Wayback Machine, the code of conduct’s preface still included the “don’t be evil” language as of April 21, 2018. However, the phrase was no longer in the preface as of May 4, even though the code of conduct page states that it was last updated April 5.

Even though the preface no longer includes the unofficial “don’t be evil” motto, Google still retains a reference to it in the final line of the code of conduct: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!”

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This is a significant change for a company that reportedly uses a version of “don’t be evil” as the Wi-Fi password on the shuttles that Google use to transport employees to its Mountain View headquarters. Never mind that the phrase existed in some form for 18 years; it was ingrained in Google’s culture for almost two decades.

The move arrives at a particularly interesting time in Google’s history. Also in April, more than 3,100 Google employees signed a letter requesting that the company back out of a drone warfare program for the DoD. The letter ends with a call for Google to recognize its moral and ethical responsibility by pledging to never build warfare technology.

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