The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal agency for the study of science and technology, is now enforcing race- and gender-based speech codes on its scientists, having made a top priority out of the language-policing efforts.
As reported by Just The News, the guidance documents issued by NIST orders its federal employees to not use words such as “blacklist” or “whitelist,” allegedly due to these words carrying racial connotations. The document also forbids employees from “using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.”
Other directives from the document include orders to “avoid terms such as master/slave that perpetuate negative stereotypes or unequal power relationships,” and “avoid descriptive terms that are condescending or reductive in favor of language that the groups being described would prefer.”
The guidance was largely implemented on the advice of Steven Lipner, chair of the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board. Lipner sent a letter to NIST back in 2020 specifically demanding that the agency ban the use of the words “blacklist” and “whitelist,” as well as banning the use of the words “slave” and “master.”
“Many technology and security standards contain racially insensitive language that is both offensive to many of our colleagues and is also, in many respects, ambiguous – technically and culturally,” Lipner said in his letter. “Examples of such language include using the terms blacklist and whitelist instead of block-list and allow-list and using the terms master and slave.”
Jennifer Huergo, a spokeswoman for the NIST, defended the guidance by claiming that it “was created primarily for the benefit of NIST staff experts who participate in the development of documentary standards as expert collaborators and leaders.”
“Use of inclusive language helps to avoid potential gaps in understanding that could arise from the use of colloquial or idiomatic expressions that are rooted in particular historical events or regional dialects,” Huergo added.
The NIST, as a federal agency, regularly receives funding from Congress for its mission, which includes keeping America’s scientific and technological development ahead of rival countries such as China. In 2023, the NIST received $1.65 billion from congressional appropriations.