Twitter, JPMorgan, and other organizations have announced they will stop using racially-charged coding and hardware terms like master, slave, blacklist, whitelist, and others as part of a thorough review of best practices around value-neutral terminology in programming and technology.
JPMorgan appears to be the first in the financial sector to remove most references to these racially problematic phrases, and it comes after the bank has said it is taking other steps to promote Black professionals and anti-bias culture training for staff.
Columbia Business School programming professor Mattan Griffel said such terms have long been controversial and can be difficult to change. The technology that underpins bank operations is often a spaghetti-like mess that results from merged companies, decades-old code and third-party systems, and any change can have cascading effects that are difficult to predict, Griffel said.
Twitter engineer Regynald Augustin described what they have been working on even before the killing of George Floyd brought even more urgency to the process:
Twitter eng recently shared that we would be making the language in our code, docs, and configs more inclusive. I want to speak on how we got here and what we've done so far.https://t.co/87RybaAiYA
— Regynald (@negroprogrammer) July 2, 2020
Open source projects like GitHub are also making strides to update terminology.