The search engine giant Google has rolled out a new feature that acts as an auto-suggestion for changing certain language to more politically correct terms.
According to the Daily Mail, users who type out certain words will be faced with several suggestions encouraging them to adopt language that is gender-neutral, or otherwise more politically correct. For example, “landlord” will yield suggestions such as “proprietor” or “property owner,” while “mankind” will lead to the suggestion of “humankind.” “Policeman” is now recommended to be “police officers,” while “housewife” is to be replaced with “stay-at-home spouse.”
This feature also applies to transcriptions of interviews and speeches from the past. When John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 is transcribed and put to the test, Google recommends that Kennedy’s use of “for all mankind” be changed to “for all humankind.”
Although the feature is meant to resemble the auto-correct feature used for misspelled words, the deliberate attempt to outright change correct words to more politically correct terminology has already drawn backlash.
“Google’s new word warnings aren’t assistive, they’re deeply intrusive,” said Silkie Carlo of the watchdog group Big Brother Watch. “This speech-policing is profoundly clumsy, creepy and wrong, often reinforcing bias.”
Sam Bowman, with the online magazine Works in Progress, said that the new system “feels pretty hectoring and adds an unwanted political/cultural slant to what I’d rather was a neutral product [as] a user.”
When asked to address the controversial new changes, a Google spokesman claimed that “our technology is always improving, and we don’t yet [have] a solution to identifying and mitigating all unwanted word associations and biases.”