Google Gboard may be blocking ‘Chinese virus,’ similar terms from appearing in autocomplete results

Gboard, like many keyboard apps, provides users with suggestions on how to complete their words, phrases, or even sentences. It recently adopted federated learning, sampling anonymous user data to serve up-to-date autocomplete results featuring very new terms in our fast-moving human culture. Of course, some phrases aren’t particularly suited for a wide audience or are just plain offensive. And with active, constant discourse surrounding the novel coronavirus, Google is reportedly rushing to ban some words and phrases from appearing in the Gboard autocomplete bar.

Tech blogger Jane Manchun Wong posted a list of Gboard’s “Emergency Bad Words” for the American English dialect. Many terms already on the list are sexual in nature or may contribute to conspiracies — “global warming is a hoax” is really the only safe-for-work example that we can mention here, you can see the full list at your own risk by viewing the tweet.

The newest terms on the list as of today are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and include the following:

  • China disease
  • China virus
  • Chinese disease
  • Chinese virus
  • asia disease
  • asia virus
  • virus

Wong has a reliable track record with scoops like this one.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus of which this current outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, has been described by a number of people including President Donald Trump and other White House officials with terms such as the “Chinese virus” and reportedly even “kung flu.” At the same time, many Asians have been baselessly accused of creating and spreading the virus. Some of them were subject to public abuse and violence.

It is still possible to manually type the above terms using Gboard, you just won’t get any help from machine learning.



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