Target has rectified a censorship algorithm that removed the words ‘queer’ and ‘transgender’ from its website. Users discovered the issue when reading online book descriptions that replaced the words with a series of asterisks.
Online shoppers looking to pre-order a copy of Fox Fisher and Owl’s Trans Teen Survival Guide discovered the error when the book’s description read:
“Frank, friendly and funny, Trans Teen Survival Guide will leave ****** and nonbinary teens informed, empowered, and armed with all the tips, confidence and practical advice they need to navigate life as a trans teen.”
Cáel Keegan, the author of Lana and Lilly Wachowski, a novel about transgender sisters, found that the word ‘transgender’ had been censored three times from the book’s description. LGBT+ language was censored along with profanity and the word ‘Nazi’.
Target received criticism from a number of university publishers regarding the censorship. Tony Sanfilippo, director of the Ohio State University Press said:
“If you can’t say ‘Nazi’, you can’t stop Nazis. And if you can’t search for a book about the trans community and trans issues, your search engine and your corporate philosophy are morally flawed.”
The US retail chain chalked the censorship up to an error in the algorithm that was put in place in an effort to censor profanity and offensive language on Target’s website.
In a statement Target spokesperson addressed the removal of LGBT+ language:
“Like most retailers, Target doesn’t want profanity and other select words to appear on our website in an effort to ensure a positive shopping experience.
“This was an oversight on our part, and [terms like ‘queer’ and ‘transgender] should be included. We’re working to update our site with the descriptions that were provided to Target by the book publishers.”
In the past, Target has been praised for their LGBT+ inclusive policies. Their children’s clothing range includes a gender-neutral line, and their stores have a policy that allows customers to use the bathroom facilities and fitting rooms that align with their own gender identity.
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