Google Docs will now make more “inclusive” suggestions and edits in its predictive text algorithm. The technology will now correct gendered words such as “mailman” to “mail carrier,” or “chairman” to “chairperson.”
On May 18, Google held its virtual I/O developer conference. the Daily Mail reported that the new update to Google Doc will suggest ways to avoid “offensive language” and gendered language.
Google has made similar changes in 2018 after the company fell under fire for its predictive gendered pronoun language. The company opted to remove gender pronouns from the predictive text feature altogether.
Product leaders told Reuters that the technology had to be changed to avoid offending users.
“Google’s technology will not suggest gender-based pronouns because the risk is too high that its ‘Smart Compose’ technology might predict someone’s sex or gender identity incorrectly and offend users,” product leaders said.
Google already banned expletives and slurs from predictive technology as well as mentions of business rivals or tragic events in history. The Google style guide was also updated to be more understanding of mental health. The style guide suggests changing the words “crazy” to “baffling,” “dummy variable” to “placeholder variable,” and “final sanity-check” to “final check for completeness and clarity.”
Sundar Pichai, the Chief Executive Officer of Google and Alphabet, committed the company to focusing on social and racial justice issues. In June 2020, the CEO emailed employees letting them know that the company was “strengthening [its] commitment to racial equity and inclusion” and would work to “build sustainable equity for [its] Black+ community.”
Pichai also committed to improving “Black+” representation in leadership, establishing a range of “anti-racism” educational programs, and focusing on “better supporting the mental and physical health and well-being of our Black+ community.”
Google has acted on its commitment to establish “anti-racism” programming. The company teamed up with a nonprofit linked to the “cancellation” of Dr. Suess’ books and Nickelodeon’s race-based special to create an “anti-racist” book list for K-12 teachers.
The Daily Wire reported:
In June, Google’s charity, Google.org, announced that it would partner with the nonprofit, The Conscious Kid, by curating a list of reading materials and lesson plans that support “inclusive, anti-racist K-12 classrooms.”
The tech giant said in a press release that it supports The Conscious Kid’s embrace of critical race theory — the theory that America is intrinsically and immutably racist.
The push for more “inclusive” gender language goes beyond the scope of big tech. Colleges and educational institutions are also modifying language in the name of inclusivity. At Penn State University, the faculty senate passed a resolution that rid the university of alleged paternalistic labels such as “freshmen,” “junior,” “senior,” “upperclassmen,” and “underclassmen.”
University faculty claim that gendered language comes from living in a male-dominated society, and that terms such as “junior” and “senior” “are parallel to western male father-son naming conventions, and much of our written documentation uses he/she pronouns.”