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.