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Google Violates its Don't Be Evil Motto

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Soon after Google was founded, it adopted a corporate motto: don’t be evil. Since then, it has been the dominant curator of digital information, cornered the market on private email, and made personal information publicly available in unprecedented fashion. While it provides critical social and economic services for free, it has amassed enormous power over information exchange around the world. Has Google violated its “don’t be evil” motto? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Harry Lewis

Dean of Harvard College, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard

In 2003 Lewis was honored with the title of Harvard College Professor in honor of his teaching excellence. Over more than thirty years of teaching... Read More

Randal C. Picker

Paul H. and Theo Leffmann Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Chicago Law School

Picker is also a senior fellow at The Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and has for a number of years... Read More

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Chair, Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia & Author of The Googlization of Everything

A cultural historian and media scholar, Siva Vaidhyanathan is currently the Robertson Professor and the Chair of the Department of Media Studies at... Read More

Against the motion

Esther Dyson

Investor and Director of 23andMe and Yandex

Ester is well qualified to opine on Google. In 1997, she wrote Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age, about the impact of the Internet... Read More

Jim Harper

Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute

A nationally recognized privacy, Internet, and technology policy expert, Jim has testified in Congress a half-dozen times and in state legislatures... Read More

Jeff Jarvis

Director, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism

Jeff Jarvis is a national leader in the development of online news, blogging, and the investigation of new business models for news. He is director... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Google’s dominance in its market, including its attempts to muscle out Microsoft, Amazon and eBay, constitute an economic and social hazard given the company’s widespread control over public opinion and vital services.
  • Google threatens individual privacy as personal details such as one’s address, political donation history and phone number are readily available to anyone with Internet access.
  • To make a profit, Google acquiesced to the Chinese government’s censorship demands and continues to perpetuate that government’s distorted lens.
  • The inclusion of paid advertisements in Google searches represents a violation of public trust and allows the company to exert undue influence over public opinion in the interest of profit. 
Against The Motion
  • Google brings information and empowerment to the masses in a way that was unimaginable before the company was founded.
  • The services Google provides connect intellectuals and researchers around the world and allow for unprecedented progress in critical fields such as science, technology, and medicine.
  • Despite notable concessions to the Chinese government, the existence of Google in China allows Chinese citizens to access otherwise unavailable information about foreign entities and creates expectations around transparency that challenge censorship.
  • Google has been a leader in developing the technologies that many rely on, including map services, connectivity tools, email, and others—all of which it has released to the public for free.

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The Research

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