In Larry Page’s first substantive public communication since becoming Google CEO a year ago, Mr. Page’s “2012 Update from the CEO” essentially reaffirmed Google’s unique public profession of corporate morality that Google famously established in its 2004 IPO letter to shareholders. “Don’t be evil” was a header in that letter and was defined morally only obliquely as: doing “good things for the world,” and “keeping user trust.” Google then ensconced this unique profession of morality in its corporate philosophy statement as “You can make money without doing evil,” strongly implying other businesses routinely make money doing evil.
Remaining consistent in implying its moral superiority, a header in Mr. Page’s 2012 update was “Love and trust.” It stated: “We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love. But we recognize this is an ambitious goal because most large companies are not well-loved;” and “We have always believed that it is possible to make money without being evil.” Google’s strong implication again is that Google is morally superior to other “large companies” who make money “doing evil” and “being evil.”
Given the stark contrast between Google’s sanctimonious profession of superior business morality and its own ignominious track record, have Google’s actions and behavior measured up to its strongly implied moral superiority?
To answer that difficult question, what moral standard would be most appropriate to measure Google’s public representations against? The most apt and widely accepted moral standard in America would be the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament which comprise most of the Judeo-Christian ethic imbued in America’s Constitution and system of justice. In this particular case, the Sixth through Tenth Commandments, which address civic behavior, would be the most pertinent — i.e. Thou shalt not: kill; commit adultery; steal; bear false witness; or covet others’ property.
Of course Google has not committed murder. However for several years, Google showed willful blindness toward Google business practices that exhibited a callous disregard for human life, health and safety. In August, Google to knowingly and repeatedly violating Federal criminal laws against the importation of prescription drugs” for several years, in a criminal non-prosecution ; Google also paid a near record $500m criminal forfeiture penalty. The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney who led the Google criminal probe the evidence was clear current Google CEO “new what was going on.” No one knows how many Americans may have been harmed or even potentially killed from unsafe or counterfeit prescription drugs that Google knowingly and illegally mass-marketed to the American public from 2004-2011.
Once again, Google has not committed adultery. However, Google Inc. does have a serious business practice problem in this particular moral arena. Change.org features an online petition from the Women’s News Network urging Google’s CEO and top leadership to “Stop Google AdWords from all involvement in the sexual exploitation of women and girls.” The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates has written a letter to the National Association of Attorneys General urging them to investigate Google for profiting from the sale of online ads that contribute to the trafficking of women and girls. Congressional lawmakers have also written a letter to Google CEO Larry Page to stop sexually exploitative advertising and marketing that harms women and girls. And evidence from human trafficking examiner Raymond Bechard shows that despite Google’s charitable support of anti-slavery groups, Google’s current search index and ad practices still widely support human trafficking interests.
On stealing, Google has a well-known moral problem of knowingly and systematically taking the property of others without their permission. Federal Judge Chin Google’s proposed book settlement because it would reward Google “for wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission.” Google continues to systematically copy books without permission from the copyright owner – over to date. In the Viacom vs. Google-YouTube $1b copyright infringement case, involving the alleged of hundreds of thousands of illegally downloaded videos, Federal Judge Stanton : “…a jury could find that the defendants [Google-YouTube] not only were generally aware of, but generally welcomed copyright-infringing material being placed on their website.” The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed with that conclusion and directed the Federal Court to investigate further to determine if Google showed willful blindness to YouTube’s infringement. Oracle has Google for billions of dollars for “knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related property;” and an incriminating shows Google’s leadership knew they needed to license JAVA but implicitly decided to steal it. Earlier this year, Google admitted to being business contacts from a Kenyan business directory. It is no coincidence that Google has been sued for copyright infringement by most all types of content: , , , , , , , , , , , , and .
In sum, the evidence above strongly suggests Google morally does not practice what it preaches.
To wrap up, it is especially ironic that the company that brands itself morally superior made an under-reported moral policy decision last summer to exclude from the Google for Non-Profits Program any entity that considers religion in its hiring decisions — meaning Google now excludes most all religious institutions of all faiths from eligibility for free services like other non-profits receive from Google. This is telling given Google’s own problematic hiring practices. In 2010, the DOJ found Google and five other companies illegally colluded to hold down the pay and career opportunities of its employees by conspiring to not poach or compete for each others’ employees. Also in 2010, “Google, the company that wants to make the world’s information accessible, says the race and gender of its work force [EEO hiring record] is a trade secret that cannot be released,” per the Mercury News. Again Google takes a moral stand on other entities’ hiring practices when its own hiring practices have been found to be illegal and non-transparent.