Red Hat Audit to ‘Eradicate’ Problematic Language in Its Code

Red Hat Audit to ‘Eradicate’ Problematic Language in Its Code

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Red Hat has become the latest software company pledging to remove “problematic” language from its platforms.

In a blog post published to the company’s website, Chief Technology Officer Chris Wright said the company would be “standing up a team to audit our own work—our code, documentation and content—and identify potentially divisive language.”

“When we looked at why certain words are still being used in open source, we questioned why they persisted and what we could do about it,” Wright told Motherboard in an email.

Terms used within the open source community that have often caused division include “master” and “slave,” which is used to denote when one process has control over another, and terms like “whitelist” and “blacklist,” used to identify when something is permitted or forbidden.

The announcement by Red Hat follows a similar move made by Github—the Microsoft owned software development platform company—which announced earlier this month it would be renaming the default branch structure used on its platform from “master” to “main.”

Calls to remove racist terminology from software and programming languages have existed for awhile, and in 2018, Python—one of the top programming languages in the world—removed the terms “master” and “slave” from its programming language.

That move was accompanied by a debate among developers, with many agreeing that “slave” was offensive but others arguing that “master” was not.

The push for more inclusive language in programming has picked up steam recently, as individuals across the country have taken to the streets in protest of systematic structures of racism, and tech companies have been forced to consider their own place within oppressive systems.

“We’re all called to listen right now, and to try to understand others’ experiences and the practices that even unintentionally reinforce perceptions. Many of those systemic practices are rightly being questioned right now,” Wright said.

Red Hat, well-known within the Linux and open source communities, said it would begin its audit by making changes in content where such terminology is used conceptually, noting changes to code can take time since it involves altering configurations used by already running installations.

In his blog post, Wright said broader changes would take a community effort by partner projects, something he noted had already begun.

“The Ansible [open-source software developed by Red Hat] community, for example, has started work to rename its ‘master’ branch to ‘main’ branch and phase out use of ‘whitelist’ and ‘blacklist’ in favor of ‘allowlist’ and ‘denylist,’” Wright said.

“Open source projects are a place for all people to come together and contribute, it must be a welcoming environment for everyone,” Wright said. “That conversation is bigger than just Red Hat. We hope that others also make this commitment and help us get to real change, faster.”


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