Twitter Stops Using Terms 'Master,' 'Slave' and 'Blacklist'

Twitter has pledged to use more inclusive language in its programming code, dropping terms like "master," "slave," "whitelist" and "blacklist."

The social network's engineering team said Thursday the platform will start to phase out a handful of potentially-offensive terms that are often seen in computer programming, and replace them with alternative—more acceptable—language.

Broadly, "master" in computer terminology refers to a main version of a piece of code, while "slave" is used to describe the code it controls. "Blacklist" refers to code that is not permitted, while "whitelist" is set to describe code that is approved.

According to Twitter, it will use leader/follower instead of master/slave. Whitelist is now referred to as "allowlist," while blacklist will be known as "denylist."

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Twitter will also distance itself from other potentially-offensive words, including "sanity check," "man hours" and "dummy value," according to a screenshot of flagged terms.

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The Jack-Dorsey-led social networking firm mirrors moves by the engineering teams at JPMorgan, GitHub, Android and Google's Chromium.

It comes as the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 has fueled mass anti-racism protests across the world, forcing companies to evaluate how they can improve workplace equality and reduce any rooted racial insensitivity.

Yesterday, Twitter explained its reasons for the changes, saying "inclusive language plays a critical role in fostering an environment where everyone belongs."

It wrote: "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."

Now, the company said it will scour existing code, identify violating terms and change the language. It will update documentation and implement a browser extension that will suggest alternative inclusive words as engineers work in real-time.

"There is no switch we can flip to make these changes everywhere, at once. We will continue to iterate on this work and want to put in place processes and systems that will allow us to apply these changes at scale," the company stressed.

"Words matter in our meetings, our conversations, and the documents we write. We know there's still a lot of work to do, but we're committed to doing our part."

On his account, Twitter engineer Regynald Augustin said he was "excited" to see how the project progresses but said there is still "much work to be done."

He wrote: "[Our goal is to] eventually adopt inclusive language across Twitter. I know this is a small step, but it's one that keeps us on the path to improving the industry."

Nat Friedman, CEO of Microsoft-owned code repository GitHub, confirmed in a tweet last month his platform would cease using the terms "master" and "slave."

On May 30, five days after Floyd's killing, he wrote: "This week has been a horrifying, sad reminder of the centuries-long pattern of systemic racism in the US."

Friedman added: "Our criminal justice system is in dire need of reform. GitHub stands with the Black community and will not be silent on violence and injustice."

U.S. banking giant JP Morgan's decision to stop using the computer language in its back-end code and internal tech documentation was first reported by Reuters.

Jack Dorsey
Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey gestures while interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi on November 12, 2018 PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty
Twitter Stops Using Terms 'Master,' 'Slave' and 'Blacklist' | Tech & Science