Racist Technology in Action: Autocorrect is Western- and White-focused

The “I am not a typo” campaign is asking the tech giants to update their name dictionaries and stop autocorrecting the 41% of names given to babies in England and Wales.

These autocorrected names are disproportionally African and Asian in origin:

A giant billboard somewhere in London showing the ‘I Am Not A Typo’ campaign, with a lot of names of people and only the non-Western names getting a red underline
Photo from the @iamnotatypo Instagram page

Journalist Dhruti Shah writes on the campaign site:

My name is Dhruti Shah. Not Drutee, Dirty, or even Dorito. And yet these are all words my name has been changed to, often because of an autocorrect decision or a rushed message… My first name isn’t even that long – only six characters – but yet when it comes up as an error or it’s mangled and considered an unknown entity, it’s like saying that it’s not just your name that’s wrong, but you are.

Professor Rashmi Dyal-Chand, who has written Autocorrecting for Whiteness in the Boston University Law Review states:

My name is Rashmi, not Rashi, Rush me, or Sashimi, autocorrect notwithstanding… When I email someone, and autocorrect incorrectly changes the name I have typed, I feel responsible and I email back to apologize. Autocorrect communicates for me that I don’t care, or I’m thoughtless, or I don’t respect the person I’m writing enough to get their name right. For people with names like mine, autocorrect is not convenient and helpful. It is unhelpful. And yes – it is harmful.

As the campaign website says:

Our children should not be othered by the technology that is integral to their lives. And it’s up to the arbiters of that technology to fix it.

See: People with commonly autocorrected names call for tech firms to fix problem at the Guardian, and the I am not a typo campaign site.

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