IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Linux kernel to strip out racially insensitive terms

Linus Torvalds confirms plans to replace 'master' and 'slave' with terms such as 'primary' and 'secondary'

Linux sign on a brick wall

Racially-sensitive terms such as ‘master’ and ‘slave’ will be stripped away from the Linux kernel operating system, its creator Linus Torvalds has confirmed.

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement and a growing spotlight being thrown on racial insensitivity, Linux has followed a string of organisations in the tech community to reconsider the terminology used in development.

Linus Torvalds has updated the general coding style guide with provisions for replacing potentially racially-insensitive terms, which will be abolished in favour of alternatives for use in the Linux community. 

For master/slave, Torvalds has recommended a number of alternatives including primary/secondary or main/subordinate. Other options include controller/device, leader/follower and director/performer, although no set, in particular, has been recommended over any other.

The style guide has, furthermore, recommended removing blacklist and whitelist and replacing these with either denylist/allowlist and blocklist/passlist, where possible.

Exceptions for this including maintaining the Linux kernel API, or when updating code for an existing hardware or protocol specification that requires those terms to be used. For new specifications, Torvalds has recommended translating specification usage of the terminology to the new coding standard where possible.

Linux has become the latest organisation to scrap development terms that may be perceived as racially insensitive and in order to build a more inclusive environment in the tech industry for black and ethnic minority candidates.

GitHub confirmed last month it would be replacing the terminology of its default branch structure from ‘master’ to something more neutral, such as ‘main’, in order to remove any references to slavery.

CEO Nat Friedman confirmed on Twitter in response to Google Engineer Una Kravets who called on the development hub to follow her company’s push. This follows the Chromium team’s plans to eliminate the subtle forms of racism found its code.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has, for some time, been of the same impression, with its head of advice and guidance Emma W publishing a blog explaining why it would be moving away from terms such as blacklist and whitelist.

Featured Resources

Accelerating AI modernisation with data infrastructure

Generate business value from your AI initiatives

Free Download

Recommendations for managing AI risks

Integrate your external AI tool findings into your broader security programs

Free Download

Modernise your legacy databases in the cloud

An introduction to cloud databases

Free Download

Powering through to innovation

IT agility drive digital transformation

Free Download

Most Popular

Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup
data breaches

Former Uber security chief to face fraud charges over hack coverup

29 Jun 2022
Macmillan Publishers hit by apparent cyber attack as systems are forced offline
Security

Macmillan Publishers hit by apparent cyber attack as systems are forced offline

30 Jun 2022
FCC commissioner urges Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores
data protection

FCC commissioner urges Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores

29 Jun 2022