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Monday, Aug 02, 2021

No more ‘blacklists’ & ‘slaves’? Microsoft developer rekindles calls to make coding politicaly correct

No more ‘blacklists’ & ‘slaves’? Microsoft developer rekindles calls to make coding politicaly correct

In wake of the George Floyd protests, a developer has published a blog post detailing how to rename the “oppressive” coding vocabulary, which includes such terms as “master,” “slave,” “blacklist” and “whitelist.”
Scott Hanselman, a programmer who works at Microsoft, has penned a blog post about how to rename the “master” branch in code repositories to something less offensive.

Offensive to whom remains unclear but, in the post, Hanselman stated that there are “lots of more accurate options depending on context.”

“It costs me nothing to change my vocabulary, especially if it is one less little speed bump to getting a new person excited about tech,” he wrote.

Last month another developer, Simon Pieters, pointed out that “master” could be an offensive term, a public mailing list leak revealed. His idea to rename coding terms didn’t get a positive response among his colleagues.

“This is just massive and unnecessary churn, and it opens up a ridiculous can of worms,” some wrote. Others reminded us that words such as “master” are “embedded in our lexicon in many places.”

The censoring of the words behind the information on our screens follows a document published in 2018 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – an open standards organization that promotes voluntary internet standards. In the document, it attacks the coding terms ‘master-slave’ and ‘white-blacklist’ for their “racist and race-based meanings.”

The document also notes that “robot” is the Czech word for “slave.”

The same year that the IETF published its complaints, Google’s Chromium – Google’s open source project network – changed "blacklist" to a term without supposed racial overtones: “blocklist.” “Whitelist" subsequently became “allowlist.”

Such virtue signaling is expected in Silicon Valley. Jack Dorsey once admitted that his platform Twitter has a ‘left-leaning’ staff. That said, it was unclear how deep these sentiments went. With this Microsoft developer’s new blog post, it seems to be going to technology’s very core.

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