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Federal Agency Imposes Restrictive Speech Code On Scientists

Chris Agee
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An increasing array of organizations and government entities are enforcing restrictions on speech and expression in the ostensible pursuit of equality and inclusion. 

Among the latest agencies to engage in this controversial trend is the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In a recent series of policy updates, the NIST referenced a range of previously innocuous words and phrases that have been labeled potentially offensive in today’s hyper-sensitive culture.


Many of the terms included in the recent directive have been used in the science and technology industries for generations, but Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board Chair Steven Lipner has been pushing for years to replace them.

He wrote to the NIST in 2020 to request such changes, advising: “Many technology and security standards contain racially insensitive language that is both offensive to many of our colleagues and is also, in many respects, ambiguous — technically and culturally. Examples of such language include the terms blacklist and whitelist instead of block-list and allow-list and using the terms master and slave.”

Those terms and others were mentioned in the subsequent directive, with employees advised to “avoid terms … that perpetuate negative stereotypes or unequal power relationships” as well as “descriptive terms that are condescending or reductive in favor of language that the groups being described would prefer.”

An NIST spokesperson issued a statement regarding the new guidelines, defending them as beneficial to “staff experts who participate in the development of documentary standards as expert collaborators and leaders.”

As Jennifer Huergo asserted: “Use of inclusive language helps to avoid potential gaps in understanding that could arise from the use of colloquial or idiomatic expressions that are rooted in particular historical events or regional dialects.”


Last year, the U.S. Air Force came under fire for the diversity training it required cadets to complete, which stressed the importance of using gender-neutral language. 

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) slammed the “divisive and un-American” directives, explaining: “Cadets were reportedly instructed to refrain from using terms such as ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ or ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ and instead use terms that ‘include all gender. The training also condemns the use of the term ‘colorblind’ or the claim that someone does not ‘see color. Even the term ‘terrorist’ was deemed inappropriate.”