Google is rolling out a new ‘inclusive language’ function that is designed to avoid the use of politically incorrect words.
The tool will be a part of Google Docs and will flash up warnings to writers to avoid certain words and phrases that “may not be inclusive to all readers”.
Writers will be prompted to use a different word instead from a list of more acceptable replacements.
What words does Google object to?
Among the words Google objects to is “landlord” as Google considers this as not inclusive to all. It suggests the word should be changed to “property owner” or “proprietor” instead.
Other more gender-inclusive alternatives include changing “mankind” to “humankind”, “policeman” to “police officers”, and replacing “housewife” to “stay-at-home-spouse”.
The tool also objects to the technical term “motherboard”, which is the term for a printed circuit board containing the principal components of a computer or other device.
If a writer uses any of these and other terms a message pops up which says: “Inclusive warning. Some of these words may not be inclusive to all readers. Consider using different words.”
While many computer document systems use tools to correct spelling and grammar, prompting users to use specific words and phrases has been criticised as being “deeply intrusive” and a restriction of free expression.
Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, 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.”
Google previously provided a guide for writing more inclusive documents, with suggestions to use “baffling” instead of “crazy”, “person-hours” instead of “man-hours” and “older adults” instead of “the elderly”.
It recommends saying someone “uses a wheelchair” rather than describing them as “wheelchair-bound”, and that a person is “living with” rather than “suffering from” a disability.
Where is the function being rolled out?
The new Google Docs programme which includes the ‘inclusive language’ warnings function is currently being rolled out to what the firm calls enterprise-level users, and is turned on by default.
Google said the feature was in an “ongoing evolution” designed to identify and “mitigate” unwanted word biases.
A spokesperson for the firm said: “Assisted writing uses language understanding models, which rely on millions of common phrases and sentences to automatically learn how people communicate. This also means they can reflect some human cognitive biases.
“Our technology is always improving, and we don’t yet (and may never) have a complete solution to identifying and mitigating all unwanted word associations and biases.”