Google has instructed employees to stop using politically incorrect terminology, and to edit existing code in order to remove offensive language.
That’s according to The Daily Caller, which obtained a copy of a “respectful code” policy written by Google Senior Fellow Sanjay Ghemawat and Vice President of Engineering Suzanne Frey. The document was shared with employees a year ago—around the same time Python stopped referring to components that control or are controlled by other components as “master” and “slave,” which some people found offensive.
The master/slave example is specifically cited in the Google document, The Caller reports:
The FAQ of the document also clarifies that this does not seem to be a program with well-defined procedures:
Who decides which items in this document are approved (anointed as “disrespected”) What procedure is followed to make this decision? Which senior executive established that procedure? Can you inserted a link to that procedure? [sic]
There is no official procedure right now. The baseline is that “master”/”slave” should definitely change (it is explicitly called out in the policy doc), but other terms in “ongoing cleanup” have enough people in agreement they should be changed that cleanup work is actively happening. The guidance from the policy doc is to use your judgement, and ask your project/organization’s D&I [diversity and inclusion] team.
“We ask that people use their judgement about what terms might be inappropriate,” the document reads. “If you have any questions, you can ask your D&I [diversity and inclusion] product team at app-product-inclusion@. If you think that some people could be offended by a term, avoid that term. One clear example to avoid is the use of the term ‘slave’ which is often used in a ‘master/slave’ association. Teams renaming these terms should decide what best replacement terms fit their product.”
Engineers are exhorted to avoid “problematic terms” in: “Names of variables, types, functions, build rules, binaries, exported variables”; “Test data”; “System output and displays”; “Documentation”; and “Comments.”
Progressive hostility to the words “master” and “slave” are not new. “Master” used to be the title used by residential deans at universities such as Yale, but this was changed to “head” in 2017. Google apparently considered the notion that words can have multiple meanings, but it decided this was no reason not to strive for maximum sensitivity. “While one person might not think about the sensitive non-technical meaning of a world, another person might, depending on their background,” wrote Ghemewat and Frey. “The argument ‘I don’t think of this word as a problem’ should not exclude it from critiquing.”
Google has the right to set its own rules and goals; if it thinks it is a good use of company time and resources to compel its employees to sanitize their past work in order to appease the diversity and inclusion team, then that is how the company’s time and resources will be spent. So goes the swift rise of the hyper woke.