Google tries to avoid being evil

— 7:23 AM on January 28, 2003

The January issue of Wired is online, and there's a fascinating article on Google's rise to fame and its unique moral compass:

But a funny thing is happening on the way to Internet adulthood - Google's awkward teen years. The company's growth spurt has spawned a host of daunting questions that no data-retrieval system can easily answer. Should Google play ball with repressive foreign governments? Refuse to link users to "hate" sites? Punish marketers who artificially inflate site rankings? Fight the Church of Scientology's attempts to silence critics? And what to do about the cache, Google's archive of previously indexed pages? In April, the German national railroad threatened legal action to remove an obsolete site containing sabotage instructions.

Most major companies refer to a detailed code of corporate conduct when considering such policy decisions. General Electric devotes 15 pages on its Web site to an integrity policy. Nortel's site has 34 pages of guidelines. Google's code of conduct can be boiled down to a mere three words: Don't be evil.

Though Google lives by the "Don't be evil" mantra, the article outlines a number of instances where some have considered Google's actions evil. Google's moral compass is anchored to one of the company's founders, who interestingly enough will accept porn advertising but not ads for alcohol or tobacco products.

With Google holding a virtual monopoly on Internet searches, will the search engine's popularity ultimately compromise its ability to not be evil?

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