Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto has lately lost some polish. In recent weeks, the Internet giant has taken aggressive steps into the broadband business and teamed up with "Big Brother," the National Security Administration. It stands to reason that in 2006 the company informally backed away from its absolutist motto and started using an "evil scale" to weigh venial sins against the greater good.
Into the self-righteous-tech company void steps Twitter. Evan Williams, co-founder of the social media mainstay, rolled out the company's new motto at a South by Southwest Q&A:
Recently we went through a process to define our operating principles. The number one principle is “be a force for good.”The new mantra has raised eyebrows in the blogosphere, where tech writers are divided between those exasperated with the good vs. evil motif and those eager to tell Twitter just how to be good. Leading the skeptics is TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, who "cringed a little" when he heard the vow. Arrington has two major gripes with the inclusion of good or evil in a company's mission statement.
First because it’s basically impossible to balance a profit motive with a goodness motive. [...] Being a socialist is a great way to get laid in college but it’s no way to run a society.Scripting News' David Winer prefers to take Twitter execs at their word and offer his two cents on how exactly to be a force for good. "Try really being good, not just saying you're going to be good," he exhorts, arguing the company must avoid getting bloated. "For Twitter, doing good would mean decentralizing, not making every tweet flow through their servers. This makes the network weak, slow and fragile."
Second because when people, or governments, or companies start talking about being a force for good, there’s a good chance that a serious amount of self righteousness is brewing behind the scenes. Everyone who fights a war thinks they have God on their side. And some of the most atrocious moments in history were done in the name of good.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.