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Twitter drops words like slave, master, blacklist from programming to make vocabulary more inclusive

Twitter is making alterations to its vocabulary to make language more inclusive. It is dropping words like slave, master, whitelist, blacklist.

twitter-logoYasmin Ahmed | July 3, 2020 | Updated 14:37 IST
(Source: Reuters)


  • Terms like slave, master, whitelist, and blacklist have been used for years in programming.
  • Experts have stated that this replacement of words from programming could cost millions and take months.
  • Blacklist will be replaced by Denylist and Whitelist with Allowlist.

Words such as slave, master, blacklist, and whitelist have been used as programming codes for many years. In a bid to make its language more inclusive, Twitter will be dropping words from further usage some of which are slave, master, whitelist and blacklist.

In programming lingo, blacklist refers to items that are automatically denied, typically forbidden websites.

Master refers to the main version of codes that control slaves or replicas. These words are often used to describe things like databases, software projects, camera flashes, and hard drives.

Twitter will now replace Whitelist with Allowlist, Blacklist with Denylist, and master/slave will be replaced with leader/follower, primary/replica, or primary/standby.

"Inclusive language plays a critical role in fostering an environment where everyone belongs. At Twitter, the language we have been using in our code does not reflect our values as a company or represent the people we serve. We want to change that. #WordsMatter", Twitter's Engineering team tweeted.

Experts have stated that this replacement of words from programming could cost millions and take months, BBC noted.

The change was spearheaded at Twitter by programmer Reynald Augustin and engineer Kevin Oliver, CNet noted. The changes in words will be expanded to terms linked to discrimination based on sex, age and disabilities. Terms like "man-hours" and "sanity check" will also be replaced. Man hours will be replaced with person-hours or engineer hours. Sanity check will be replaced with quick check, confidence check, or coherence check. Grandfathered will be replaced with legacy status.

Gendered pronouns will also be replaced. Guys will become folks, people, you all, y'all. He/his will become they/their.

Twitter aims to finish its Twitter engineering project by the end of 2021.

Twitter engineering chief Michael Montano in a June 25 email to all Twitter employees wrote, "Inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. It is constructed to bring everyone into the group and exclude no one, and it is essential for creating an environment where everyone feels welcome."

Twitter is not the only company that is dropping words from further usage. In the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, companies like JP Morgan, Microsoft's GitHub and Google have made or are looking to make changes where such terms are concerned.

GitHub owned by Microsoft dropped the word master. Google Chromium web browsers have encouraged people to drop words like blacklist and whitelist.

Tech Giants stood in solidarity after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man due to police brutality in Minneapolis.

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