Protests across the country have forced companies to evaluate workplaces to be more inclusive — including the programming code they’re built on — and Twitter and JPMorgan Chase are the latest companies to announce that their engineering teams will eliminate terms like “master,” and “slave” from its code.
Twitter announced Thursday that it will change “master,” “slave,” “blacklist” and other non-inclusive words like “grandfathered,” “man hours” and “sanity check.”
JPMorgan Chase appears to be the first company in the financial industry to remove racially problematic terms like “master” and “slave” from the bank’s code, according to Reuters which first reported the news on Thursday.
Twitter and JPMorgan Chase follow GitHub, whose CEO, Nat Friedman, tweeted last month the company was working on changing the default branch structure “master” to “main.”
The debate over “master” and “slave” and other terminology is not new. Python dropped the “master/slave” terminology in 2018. Drupal replaced it with “primary/replica” in 2014. In 2003, Los Angeles County asked suppliers and contractors to stop using “master” and “slave” on computer equipment.
“Inclusive language plays a critical role in fostering an environment where everyone belongs. At Twitter, 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,” Twitter’s engineering team wrote in a statement.
what to watch for
After Twitter engineer Regynald Augustin got an email about an “automatic slave rekick” he was angry. He was used to seeing the term “slave” used in technical contexts and code, “but with ‘rekick’ — I was madder than I ever thought I’d be in the workplace,” he told CNET. In January, he and fellow engineer Kevin Oliver started working with managers to move toward more inclusive language and he said the process was accelerated in the wake of protests. It is possible that other engineering teams will follow suit.
Earlier this week, The Houston Association of Realtors replaced the phrases “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” with “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” on its property listing database after members expressed concerns that the language could be seen as racist or sexist.