Google is nothing if not helpful: the search giant has built its reputation on making the internet more accessible and easier to navigate. But not all of its innovations are either clever or welcome.
Take the latest change to Google Docs, which aims to highlight examples of non-inclusive language through pop-up warnings.
You might think this is a good idea, helping to avoid “chairman” or “fireman” and other gendered language – and you'd be right. But Google has taken things a step further than it really needed to, leading to some pretty hilarious results.
A viral tweet was the first warning sign that perhaps, just perhaps, this feature was a little overeager to correct common word usages. After all, is “landlord” really an example of of “words that may not be inclusive to all readers”?
As Vice has ably demonstrated, Google's latest update to Docs – while undoubtedly well-intentioned – is annoying and broken, jumping in to suggest corrections to some things while blatantly ignoring others.
well pic.twitter.com/sBHXyzGKDkApril 18, 2022
A good idea, poorly executed
The idea behind the feature is well-meaning and will likely help in certain cases. The execution, on the other hand, is poor.
Vice found that Docs suggested more inclusive language in a range of scenarios, such as for “annoyed” or “Motherboard”, but failed to suggest anything when a speech from neo-Nazi Klan leader David Duke was pasted in, containing the N-word.
In fact, Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto – a legendary piece of literature – got more edits than Duke's speech, including suggesting “police officers” instead of “policemen”.
All in all, it's the latest example of an AI-powered feature that seems like a good idea but in practice has more holes than a Swiss cheese.
Helping people write in a more inclusive way is a lofty goal, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired and, ultimately, makes the process of writing harder.