The expression “black hat”, considered racist, divides the IT sector

The expression

For some developers and IT security experts, the fight against racial discrimination involves banning certain expressions. Without necessarily being unanimous.

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The terms “white hat” and “black hat” are debated in the IT world.

Developers and IT security experts revise their vocabulary from top to bottom. This July 4, David Kleidemarcher, responsible for the security of Android, the operating system of Google, announced to withdraw from the conference Black Hat, the great annual meeting of computer security. The reason: in his eyes, the terms “black hat” (which qualifies a malicious hacker) and “white hat” (for “ethical hacker”, who puts his cybersecurity skills at the service of the good) deserve to be banned, because vectors of racial stereotypes.

More precisely, David Kleidermacher criticizes these very common expressions for conveying “unconscious prejudices”, by the systematic association of black with malicious behavior. But for many representatives of the sector, the expressions pointed at are far from conveying racist prejudices, note ZDNet.

Twitter and JPMorgan also involved

On Twitter, MalwareTech, a hacker very recognized in this environment, recalls that the two terms come from the color of the hats worn by the good guys and the bad guys in western movies. Others point out that the duality between black and white, and the fact that they refer to evil and good respectively, has nothing to do with skin color.

The terms “whitehat” and “blackhat” are unlikely to be wiped off the map. Other expressions linked to the IT world and which are also considered racist are more in the crosshairs of developers. Thus “master” and “slave”, regularly used in the programming of computer software. Twitter and the bank JPMorgan at the beginning of July announced their intention to remove them from their respective codes, to make them “more inclusive”, relates CNN.

In mid-June, Google, but also Microsoft and GitHub, one of the largest hosting and software development services in the world, announced similar measures. All of these great players see it as a way to take part in the fight against racial discrimination, which has taken on new dimensions since the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American. died at the end of May in the United States following a violent police arrest.


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