DMR News

Advancing Digital Conversations

“I Am Not a Typo”: Campaign Urges Tech Firms to Address Autocorrect Bias

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 27, 2024
"I Am Not a Typo": Campaign Urges Tech Firms to Address Autocorrect Bias

“I Am Not a Typo”: Campaign Urges Tech Firms to Address Autocorrect Bias

As technology intertwines increasingly with daily life, a pressing issue emerges from its interaction with identity: the autocorrect feature, primarily designed around Western and English-speaking norms, frequently misrepresents names from diverse cultures.

This problem has sparked the “I am not a typo” campaign, driven by individuals whose names are often incorrectly modified by autocorrect systems. Their plea is for technology companies to cultivate an inclusiveness that mirrors the global diversity of their user base.

Savan-Chandni Gandecha, a 34-year-old British Indian content creator whose name means “monsoon moonlight,” has become emblematic of the campaign. Gandecha’s experiences with autocorrect are telling: their name has been inappropriately changed to “Satan” and other incorrect variations. “My name has also been corrected to ‘Savant,’ and sometimes, even the hyphen in my name is not accepted by online forms, which irks me,” Gandecha shared, highlighting the daily inconveniences caused by such oversights.

The campaign has brought to light that a significant proportion of names are mishandled by current technology. According to their findings:

  • 40% of the names of babies born in England and Wales in 2021 were either flagged as incorrect or not accepted when tested against Microsoft’s English dictionary.
  • Between 2017 and 2021, 2,328 people were named Esmae, compared with only 36 named Nigel. However, the name Esmae is frequently altered to “Admar,” while more traditional Western names like Nigel remain unchanged.

Backing the campaign, Dhruti Shah, a journalist, expressed her dismay at how her own name has been autocorrected to “Dirty” and “Dorito.” Shah’s experience underscores a broader sentiment echoed by the campaign: “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.”

The group initiating the campaign is primarily composed of individuals from the creative industries in London. They have penned an open letter to major technology firms, drawing attention to the urgent need for more inclusive programming in autocorrect systems. They argue that while the world boasts a rich tapestry of diverse names, autocorrect technology remains predominantly Western- and white-focused.

In response to these issues, some companies have begun to introduce more inclusive technologies. Microsoft, for instance, has developed an inclusiveness spellchecker as part of its Office 365 software, which prompts users to consider more inclusive language, such as replacing “headmaster” with “principal.”

The campaign has also found support from academic circles. Rashmi Dyal-Chand, a professor at Northeastern University in the US, whose name is sometimes autocorrected to “Sashimi,” supports the initiative. Dyal-Chand’s research indicates that the racial bias embedded in autocorrect technology not only inconveniences users but also perpetuates subtle forms of discrimination. “We all increasingly rely on smartphones, tablets, word processors, and apps that use autocorrect. Yet, these systems incorporate a set of defaults – including dictionaries – that help some of its users to communicate seamlessly at the expense of others who cannot,” she stated.

Moreover, the campaign has resonated with individuals like Karen Fox, who expressed frustration over the constant correction of her children’s names, Eoin and Niamh, by autocorrect. “The red line bothers me – I didn’t choose the ‘wrong’ name for my child. Tech companies update dictionaries with slang all the time and I think it should be an easy thing to do and definitely a priority,” Fox remarked.

Highlighting the urgency of this issue, the campaign lists common girls’ and boys’ names from 2021 that are frequently mishandled by autocorrect, such as Dua (changed to “Day”), Mirha (“Moths”), Liyana (“Libyans”), Rafe (“Rage”), Mylo (“Mull”), and Eesa (“Reds”).

This call for action reflects a critical need for technology to adapt and evolve, ensuring that every user’s identity is acknowledged and respected. The “I am not a typo” campaign is not just a plea for technical accuracy but a demand for cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in the digital age, urging tech firms to recognize and correct the biases that current systems perpetuate.

Related News:

Featured Image courtesy of pressfoto on Freepik

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *