The phrase “Don’t be evil” has always prefaced Google’s Code of Conduct (CoC) since the year 2000; however the phrase has now been moved from the top paragraph of Google’s CoC to the last paragraph. Despite the change, the general encouragement not to be evil obviously still remains; it’s just not the primary focus of the CoC going forward.
While the phrase “Don’t be evil” had been the preface to the CoC, now it is the concluding statement. The move by Google may be an attempt to have less of an emotional appeal prefacing their Code of Conduct.
The news that Google removed the phrase was quickly reported on by some clickbait websites that seem to think the company is now tacitly endorsing “evil” behaviour. However, this is simply not accurate.
The clause hasn’t been removed from the CoC, just moved to the end. By removing “Don’t be evil” from the preface, Google has drawn more attention to the word “respect”, which may reflect in the company’s values towards proper conduct.
In the previous Code of Conduct, the word “evil” had appeared 4 different times, now it only appears once. Now, instead of bookending their Code of Conduct with an emotional appeal, it is simply placed at the end as a general summary of the article’s sentiment.
So, contrary to what you might have heard, Google has not removed “Don’t be evil” from their Code of Conduct. The phrase is still very much there and is still as meaningful as it ever was when it comes to dictating the behaviour of online operators.
The new Code of Conduct also appears to de-emphasise the word “trust” and changing the phrase “mutual respect” to just “respect”. The new emphasis on the word “respect” is likely a response to recent social issues like the #Me-too movement regarding sexual harassment and sexism.