Google Docs Assistive Writing
Occurred: April 2022
Google's new 'assistive writing' feature, which is intended to help Google Docs users avoid politically incorrect words such as 'landlord' and 'mankind', is facing criticism for being overly 'woke' and intrusive.
However, some think the feature goes too far. For example, it recommends replacing the word 'landlord' with 'property owner' or 'proprietor', and that US President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration phrase 'for all mankind' should be replaced with 'for all humankind.'
Others find it is inaccurate. Vice discovered that words including 'annoyed' and 'Motherboard' were flagged for being insufficiently inclusive. Yet, as Vice journalist Samantha Cole points out, being annoyed is not the same as being 'upset' or 'angry', both of which Google suggested to make her sentences 'flow better'.
The assistive writing feature is also being criticised for being overly intrusive and its users guinea pigs for Google's ongoing efforts to train and improve its predictive text, search suggestion, and other systems.
Google says it does not 'yet (and may never) have a complete solution to identifying and mitigating all unwanted word associations and biases' and that the feature is undergoing 'ongoing evolution.'
Country: USA; Global
Sector: Business/professional services
Purpose: Detect inappropriate language
Technology: NLP/text analysis
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - political opinion; Privacy
Transparency: Black box
News, commentary, analysis
Published: April 2022