"Don't Be Evil" vs. "Do No Evil" - Google's Cutts Explains The Difference

Aug 23, 2011 • 8:46 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google Evil LogoGoogle's Don't Be Evil motto has helped make Google the iconic company they are today and at the same time has caused a lot of negativity towards the company in the past few years.

Matt Cutts, one of Google's most public faces, wrote a Google + entry on what the difference between the slogan "Don't Be Evil" vs. "Do No Evil" are to him. Let me quote Matt:

Reasonable people can disagree about how whether some things are evil. For example, some people believe that meat is murder, so eating a chicken burrito or wearing leather shoes is evil. Some people would argue that owning stock in (pick your favorite "evil" company) is itself evil; a few of those people would even consider it evil to own an index fund--which might hold shares of hundreds of companies--simply because the index fund might hold a few shares of the "evil" company.

To live a life (either as a person or a corporation) so that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time can accuse you of evil is impossible. I think a Bloom County comic strip made this point, with Opus the penguin getting more and more timid until eventually he was dangling from a tree to avoid stepping on things and killing them by accident. Even then, in the final frame Opus realized that by breathing he was killing tiny organisms in the air.

So I think "Do no evil" is an impossible standard: reasonable people can disagree on which choices are evil, and for different reasons. I prefer "Don't be evil" because it leaves room for honest disagreements, but still encourages Google to strive to make the world better.

By the way, when I see "do no evil" instead of "don't be evil" in an post or article, I know the author is much more likely to criticize Google. Once you start noticing how authors frame Google's core value as "Don't be evil" vs. "Do no evil" you'll often know what to expect from the article. Keep an eye out and you'll notice it in the future too.

Anyway, if you disagree or agree, there is some awesome discussion around this at Matt's post.

Forum discussion at Google +.

Image credit: Ben Cook

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Mike Gracen

08/23/2011 12:52 pm

I think the fact Matt had to comment on this at all speaks volumes.

Nick Stamoulis

08/23/2011 02:21 pm

People like to rag on Google because they have the power, which means they can make the rules as they see fit. Some site owners/Internet marketing professionals may feel like Google abuses that power.


08/23/2011 03:49 pm

When will Google+ open up so we can all see this great conversation!! I am so jealous.

Barry Adams

08/23/2011 04:07 pm

Sounds like a bit of a lame cop-out way to put valid criticism of Google in a bad light. ;)


08/23/2011 04:16 pm

Barry, I think you need to check your image credit. To my knowledge that image was custom created for Ben Cook for his site gevil.org, and other people just keep using it without permission. Also, I miss the days when Matt was more software engineer than PR person. He was more real then.

Barry Schwartz

08/23/2011 04:17 pm

Thanks, updated.

Ben Cook

08/23/2011 07:17 pm

Thanks Michael for pointing it out and thanks Barry for the quick fix. You guys rock!


08/24/2011 12:31 am

"Keep an eye out and you'll notice it in the future too." Hey Matt Cutts, how about keeping an eye on SERPS and stop being a propaganda machine for Google. Do you f*cking job for once.


08/24/2011 11:26 am

Of late, Google is trying to project a 'holier-than-thou' attitude.  Am i the only one noticing it ? :)


08/24/2011 01:42 pm

Google is EVIL stop pretending you are not....

Andy Francos

08/24/2011 02:13 pm

hmm.  Isn't that the same as this? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htVkGx4_GqA 


08/24/2011 03:15 pm

To summarise: "When a company wants to make its next $billion being evil is unavoidable, plus the shareholders kind of expect it". 


08/24/2011 06:43 pm

I agree. But a company that penalizes other websites for selling advertising so it can sell more of its own ads is evil.

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