Microsoft suggests Chromium “cleanup of potentially offensive terms” such as “blacklist”


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History teaches us: it's never a good sign of the times when powerful entities set out to change human language, to suit an agenda.

It's mostly a symptom, a red flag – because a prosperous society, at peace with itself and others, has no need for wasting its time on such things. And at its very core, any attempt to manipulate language is an example of low-key violence against those who speak it, an attempt to control the way they express themselves – and can even signal real-world trouble ahead.

At least when it comes to English, “the language wars” today are by and large being fought in the digital sphere. And as the latest batch of issues filed against Google's Chromium project indicates, Microsoft would like to be at the forefront of just that.

Here, we need to step back and appreciate that Microsoft is hardly at the forefront of anything useful nowadays, at least when it comes to innovation and technology – those things that actually drive the tech industry. Instead, the company is a rather timid shadow of a behemoth it once was, riding the coattails of massive open-source projects like Linux in order to turn its infrastructure into a lucrative proposition.

Case in point: you might wonder how Microsoft even got to be filing issues against Chromium, the open-source code that Google's Chrome browser is built upon? Well – it's because Microsoft's attempts to build its own browser engine fell short – so its Edge browser “pivoted” to using Chromium under the hood.

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Microsoft's contribution now seems to be merely to play the safe media game – scrub politically incorrect words – or even embarrassingly obvious false-positives of such words – from the browser's code.

Microsoft “aims to rid the software blueprints of language such as whitelist (change to allowlist), blacklist (change to blocklist), offensive terms using ‘wtf' as protocol messages,” the article explains. “Wtf,” indeed.

Microsoft is making its decisions on what's allowed and what isn't based on “a machine learned model that does context based scanning on hundreds of file formats.”

And don't expect anyone to say this is a waste of time that doesn't make any sense. Chromium developers gave it “a cautious welcome” instead, the article said. And the traditionally quirky Register held back, too. Apparently, nobody wants to be seen as supporting such outdated linguistic atrocities as “whitelist” and “blacklist.”

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]