Google is an enormous company that influences the daily lives of billions of people. For a long time, its code of conduct has advised the employees not to be evil. However, recently the line has been removed, which did not go unnoticed by the community. Furthermore, Google has come under criticism for morally questionable practices. This essay aims to examine the company and determine whether it is evil according to Catholic social teachings and ethics.
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Definition of Evil
According to Sharpe, the Catholic doctrine recognizes three kinds of evil: physical, moral, and metaphysical. Physical evil describes everything that harms man, including bodily harm but also poverty, oppression, and disease. Moral evil means deviation from the moral order and the actions that result from that departure. Metaphysical evil is the most complicated of the three, as it concerns various parts of the natural world obstructing each other’s proper growth. The evils of interest in this essay are physical and moral ones, as metaphysical evil is a theoretical concept that is difficult to apply to the situation.
Evidence for the Motion
Google has recently been receiving sharp criticism for its recent decision to return to China and comply with the government’s requirements. According to Pham, the company’s original Chinese version of the popular search engine had incorporated censorship, functioning until 2010. The reason Google decided to shut down the service was the alleged hacker attacks by the Chinese government that targeted human rights activists who lived out of the country.
Since then, the only Google services available in the country have been the translator, a file organizer, and an AI game, and users who try to access the other resources are redirected to the Hong Kong version of the website.
While Google’s choice to return to China is economically sound, the company will continue complying with the censorship laws, serving as an instrument of oppression. According to Pham, the government is now able to track people through the collection of various information such as their preferences and location. It will be able to legally request Google to transfer those data, and the company would likely have to comply. When viewed through the scope of Catholic doctrine, Google intends to commit an act of physical evil.
Another frequent concern critics have about Google is its continuously growing power and influence, as well as its ability and willingness to abuse that power. According to White, Google has been discovered to illegally copy content from other websites for its purposes and threaten those websites with the omission from search results if they pressed the issue (29). Although the behavior was not punished in the United States, the European Union determined it was punishable, and it departs from the moral norm. As such, Google can be declared guilty of moral evil, as well.
Evidence against the Motion
Although Google has some issues, it is not an entirely malicious organization. As a business, its first and foremost priority is to provide customers with the highest quality services possible. As such, the company wants to give the user a positive impression, which is achieved by avoiding acts of evil and maintaining a positive image. To that end, Google has accomplished things that challenge the policies outlined in the section above.
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The company may utilize anticompetitive practices and sometimes employ illegal methods, but it has also done much to improve the present internet landscape. According to White, Google had significantly contributed to the net neutrality proposal, which advocated for equal treatment of all people and organizations when it came to traffic priorities (17-18). The company continues to support the initiative, even as the new government considers repealing it.
Google also attempts to combat some practices that have been described as predatory. White describes its fight against the payday loan industry, which targets people with low income who cannot get a loan otherwise and offers them small amounts of money with high interest (24). However, even if the company’s goal is to help its users, its methods, which involved removing providers’ websites from search results, are not morally clear.
Lastly, Google’s choice of removing its “Don’t be evil” motto may be interpreted as a move away from evil, not toward it. Mayer suggests that telling someone to avoid doing negative things is not a sufficient incentive for success, as “not bad” is not the same as “good.” The performance of positive deeds has to be promoted to achieve goodness, and that is the paradigm Google has possibly decided to adopt.
Google has been caught doing evil deeds, in smaller matters as well as company policy. However, it also promotes positive concepts and maybe trying to move toward greater goodness. It is my opinion that the company’s evil is a reflection of the evil inherent in modern businesses, particularly large ones, which stems from their primary objective of obtaining money. As such, my conclusion is that Google is not evil, but it has to commit evil deeds due to its nature and environment. Nevertheless, this lack of intent does not excuse the company’s acts, and it cannot be declared good either.
Mayer, David. “Why Google was Smart to Drop its “Don’t Be Evil” Motto.” Fast Company. 2016. Web.
Pham, Sherisse. “Google Might Return to China. Here’s Why That’s So Controversial”. CNN Tech. 2018. Web.
Sharpe, A. B. “Evil.” Catholic Answers. Web.
White, Adam J. “Google.gov.” The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society, no. 55, pp. 3-34.