Google Docs inclusive language warnings

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.

Aimed initially at enterprise users, the new feature builds on inclusive writing guidelines such as avoiding unnecessarily gendered language Google produced for its developers in 2021.

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.'

Accuracy, intrusiveness

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.'

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer:
Alphabet/Google
Country:
USA; Global
Sector: Business/professional services
Purpose:
Detect inappropriate language
Technology:
NLP/text analysis
Issue:
Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - political opinion; Privacy
Opacity:
Black box