May 28, 2023

Written by: Katie Canales

  • Twitter is dropping coding terms like “master” and “slave” and replacing them with inclusive alternatives, like “leader” and “follower.”
  • The move was boosted by the Black Lives Matter movement, but it also comes after a months-long campaign to replace the coding terms with inclusive language, an effort that was spearheaded by two Twitter engineers.
  • Tech’s broader open-source community has been met with pushback for its use of software terms that are inspired by the language of slavery and oppression.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Twitter is dropping decades-old coding terms like “master” and “slave” as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to cause ripple effects through the tech world.

The company’s engineering division tweeted out a set of words that it wants “to move away from using in favor of more inclusive language.” The list includes replacing “whitelist” with “allowlist,” “master/slave” with “leader/follower,” and “grandfathered” with “legacy status.” 

In programming speak, “master” refers to the main version of code that controls the “slaves,” or the replicas.

We’re starting with a set of words we want to move away from using in favor of more inclusive language, such as:

— Twitter Engineering (@TwitterEng) July 2, 2020

The social media company had already been striving to incorporate inclusive language into its company culture since January. The effort was spearheaded by two Twitter engineers specifically, Kevin Oliver and Regynald Augustin, as CNET reported Thursday. But the Black Lives Matter movement ushered in a fresh sense of urgency for Twitter to swap out racially loaded terms for more inclusive phrases.

Augustin is also one of the organizers for “It Is What It Is,” a project that started off as a mysterious online trend and ended up raising more than $200,000 for charities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and Black trans people. The project used the emoji combination 👁👄👁to gain traction on Twitter.

Twitter’s move comes as tech’s open source community as a whole is hit with a reckoning for its use of such software terms, as Business Insider’s Rosalie Chan reports. Microsoft-owned GitHub, the world’s largest site for hosting open-source software, announced in mid-June that it was working to replace “master” and “slave” with neutral terms.

SEE ALSO: A group of young techies is behind ‘👁👄👁,’ a mysterious meme that succeeded in getting Tech Twitter to donate to Black Lives Matter charities and clamor for invites to an app that doesn’t exist

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