Google seems to have removed most mentions of ‘Don’t be evil’ from its code of conduct

Google's headquarters at Mountain View, California
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Google's catchphrase "Don't be evil" appears to have been all but removed from its corporate code of conduct.

According to a report on the Gizmodo website, the company's code has been edited so "Don't be evil" appears only once. For example, a sentence that started "The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put 'Don't be evil' into practice," has been rephrased to state: "The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Google's values into practice."

A whole paragraph relating to "Don't be evil" appears to have been deleted, Gizmodo's report stated, based on webpages archived by the Wayback Machine website.

"'Don't be evil.' Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But 'Don't be evil' is much more than that … it's also about doing the right thing more generally — following the law, acting honorably, and treating co-workers with courtesy and respect," is part of the paragraph that seems to have been removed.

The phrase does appear as the final line of the document. "And remember… don't be evil, and if you see something that you think isn't right – speak up!"

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When Google transformed into holding company Alphabet in October 2015, it posted a code of conduct online, starting with the sentence: "Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates ('Alphabet') should do the right thing — follow the law, act honorably, and treat co-workers with courtesy and respect." "Don't be evil" wasn't mentioned in the statement.

In 2004, to mark Google's initial public offering, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote an "owner's manual" for shareholders.

In it, they explained "Don't be evil," and stated in an online posting: "We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains."

Under the "Don't be evil" heading, the founders also stressed that organic search engine results would be unbiased and that advertising clearly labeled: "This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers' payments." Some commentators, including ad agency mogul Sir Martin Sorrell, have said that tech companies such as Google and Facebook should be classed as media companies.

"The fundamental point is the acceptance by Google and Facebook that they are media companies and not technology companies, and that they have the same responsibility as you do ... for your content on CNBC," Sorrell told CNBC in April 2017.

Google was unavailable for comment when contacted by CNBC.