Google docs criticized for ‘inclusive language’ suggestion feature

Google has been criticized for an “inclusive language” feature that will recommend word substitutions for people writing in Google Docs.

The tool will offer guidance to people writing in a way that “may not be inclusive to all readers” in a similar manner to spelling and grammar check systems.

Whilst the suggestions are optional and can be turned off, critics have described it as “speech-policing” and “profoundly clumsy, creepy and wrong.” The language the system favours gender-neutral terms (e.g. “crewed” instead of “manned”) and against phrases that reflect racial prejudice (e.g. “deny list” instead of “blacklist”).

Other words which have been flagged up during the testing phase are “mankind,” “housewife,” “landlord” and even a computer “motherboard.”

Google states: “Potentially discriminatory or inappropriate language will be flagged, along with suggestions on how to make your writing more inclusive and appropriate for your audience.”

Vice News tested the feature by submitting several famous speeches and literary passages, including the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible, and found most received bad recommendations. In the same test by Vice News, the programme was unable to find any alerts or warnings in a speech made by David Duke in which Vice News confirmed he made some racist comments.

Silkie Carlo, who is the director of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns for the protection of civil liberties, told The Telegraph: “Google’s new word warnings aren’t assistive, they’re deeply intrusive. With Google’s new assistive writing tool, the company is not only reading every word you type but telling you what to type.”

“This speech-policing is profoundly clumsy, creepy and wrong, often reinforcing bias. Invasive tech like this undermines privacy, freedom of expression and increasingly freedom of thought.”

Lazar Radic of the International Centre for Law and Economics told the newspaper: “Not only is this incredibly conceited and patronising – it can also serve to stifle individuality, self-expression, experimentation, and – from a purely utilitarian perspective – progress.”




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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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