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Negotiating 'Evil': Google, Project Maven and the Corporate Form


‘Don’t be evil’ was part of Google’s corporate code of conduct since 2000; however, it was quietly removed in April or May 2018 and subsequently replaced with ‘do the right thing’. Questions were raised both internally and externally to the organisation regarding the substantive meaning of this imperative. Some have highlighted the company’s original intentions in creating the code of conduct, while others have used the motto as a basis for critiquing the company—such as for its advertising practices, failure to pay corporate tax or the manipulation of Google-owned content. The imperative’s removal occurred at a time when thousands of Google employees, including senior engineers, signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in Project Maven, a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery, which could in turn be used to improve the targeting capability of drone strikes. Employees asserted their refusal to be involved in the business of war and expressed their wariness of the United States government’s use of technology. This article will examine the legal construct and concept of the corporation, and whether it is possible for corporations to not be evil in the twenty-first century.

Published: 2020-02-27
Pages:75 to 90
Section: Articles
How to Cite
Crofts, Penny, and Honni van Rijswijk. 2020. “Negotiating ’Evil’: Google, Project Maven and the Corporate Form”. Law, Technology and Humans 2 (1):75-90.

Author Biographies

University of Technology Sydney
Australia Australia

Dr Penny Crofts is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. She is an international expert on criminal law and models of culpability. Her analysis of criminal legal models of wickedness has contributed to a jurisprudence of blameworthiness.

University of Technology Sydney
Australia Australia

Dr Honni van Rijswijk is a graduate of Sydney Law School and received her PhD from the University of Washington, where she was a Fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities. Her research is interdisciplinary, and she writes primarily at the intersections of law, literature and critical theory. She has published on feminist theories of harm, formulations of responsibility in law and literature, the role of history in the common law, and on questions of justice relating to the Stolen Generations.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074