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In short, my company is developing a management tool for managing SIM cards. One of the features of the tool is to block the SIM card if it's put into a disallowed device by device IMEI validation.

The feature for this was mocked up using the terms blacklist and whitelist. However, after a while someone raised the point that these terms could feel a bit controversial.

The advantage of using these terms is that they are clean and easily understandable, but then again if they could invoke any racial issues we don't want anything to do with them.

So far we've come up with these possible alternatives:

  • Blocked List
  • Unblocked List
  • Allowed List

And honestly, we're not very excited for any of these words.

Do you feel that these words are controversial? Are there better words we could use?

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Naughty and Nice list? – Java Drinker Dec 8 '11 at 17:16
If this is to be used by technicians, you should stick with vernacular they're already used to (blacklist/whitelist). It won't be controversial to them. – webbiedave Dec 8 '11 at 18:57
I think it would be positively bizarre if blacklist were to be blacklisted on the grounds of being racist. – FumbleFingers Dec 8 '11 at 22:22
"Goodlist" and "ungoodlist" comes to mind; you can use "plusgoodlist" or doubleplusgoodlist" if you need more emphasis ;) – Piskvor Dec 9 '11 at 12:07
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Blacklist and whitelist are fine, I don't think they are in any way racist, unless you're actually using them for discrimination.

Wikipedia's IMEI entry repeatedly uses blacklist for blocking stolen phones.

Many mobile operators, such as Vodaphone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange, all use blacklist for exactly the same thing as your use.

Whitelist is also widely used by many other applications for adding known, safe things.

If you really, really must avoid these industry standard words, blocklist has the same meaning and is nearly a homonym. For the antonym, I've seen "safe senders list" for email, so I suggest safelist to succintly convey the required meaning.

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So what @MetaEd and I suggested? – Pureferret Dec 8 '11 at 23:53
How 'about blocklist and alrightlist? Almost homophonic :D – Benjol Dec 9 '11 at 6:01
you make a very strong case. I'll definitely use this in today's discussion. thanks – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:22

While we're at it, why don't we just drop words like woman/man, boy/girl, and others? Everybody can just be a neutral phenomenon. No left, no right; no right or wrong. We'd better do away with the rainbow too, because that is so marginalizing.

This castration of the English language, and language generally, is a trend that I disagree with and find really deplorable, abhorrent even. If a man... I mean, hermaphroditic, monomorphic thing... gets flustered because of his/her/its subconscious connotation of black/Black/evil/wrong with Hu(wo)man characteristics, he/she/it should speak to a psychologist and leave our language alone.

Next, gutless employees of soulless companies like the one the poster works for will be tackling the controversy of "yellow" and "red."

I hope I don't appear to ranting, but this issue is very touchy with me.

To answer the question: No! This is an imaginary and puerile pseudo-controversy.

I'm seeing red! Oops... did I offend someone?

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+1 for the rant. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 9 '11 at 2:43
I hope you feel better now when you got that out of your system! – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:32
I agree! I think it darkens the language when people try to discolor it with their hue-bris. – kojiro Dec 9 '11 at 13:21
Hi Gavin, I'm guessing you've never been on the receiving end of "nigger", "fag", or "bitch" by your reaction to the notion that we need to proactively evolve our language to clean some of the white male privilege. I plan to continue to use whitelist/blacklist because no good alternative seems to exist but I challenge you to see the distinction between the words "man" and "woman" and the usage of whitelist/blacklist which in fact rely on the association between white == "good" and black == "bad". And watch this: cnn.com/2010/US/05/18/doll.study.parents/index.html – David W Nov 17 '12 at 18:54
Hi David. I watched the video you linked to and it, while an interesting issue, has nothing to do with my point. I'd enjoy discussion about it, but mustn't because it's irrelevant to my point. It seems to me that people, like yourself, that bring up these issues are living examples of the kind of racism they are decrying. The good-white and evil-black connotation is ancient; its provenance had nothing to do with different colors of people. Think about it -- night = black = evil/dangerous. It is a deep, psychological, even archetypal association. – Gavin Emich Mar 20 '13 at 1:13

'Whitelist' and 'blacklist', though they are very common usage, can sound somewhat strange nowadays because of, whatever the provenance, their connections with racially tinged words.

An alternative, which is based on current technology but not yet widespread is:

  • allow list
  • deny list

'Allow' and 'deny' are the labels used for some kinds security specification.

share|improve this answer
I believe my mind is made up, I don't think the potential harm for using blacklist and whitelist is big enough for finding alternatives. however, I don't have final say in the matter, so if we go with alternative terms these two you listed looked very good. Much better using 'allow' rather than 'allowed' – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:25
@AndroidHustle: there's a lot of controversy over changing language to follow cultural practices (in this case 'politically correct' or PC issues, some for some against). I'm just offering an alternative. Some PC things sound silly (eg 'herstory') and some sound very reasonable (deprecation of the n-word). But whatever it is, it is culture that is driving things. If some people start to point out that 'blacklist' sounds racist more and more (either through unintended associations, or through realization that it -is- a terribly racist thing), then it might turn out to be deprecated also. – Mitch Dec 9 '11 at 21:47
They only "sound strange" to [insulting term for a class of people lacking an important personal attribute]. Seriously. Soon we won't be able to say niggardly, denigrate, or Nigeria or use the terms black heart, black/white knight, blacken one's name, black market, and so on! This is so pathetic. It's strikingly similar to the mother who wanted to name her daughter (rhymes with Regina) Vagina. Utter ignorance is driving this. – ErikE May 23 '13 at 21:29
I teach college CS. I dread saying "blacklist" and "whitelist" during lecture as it always causes at least some uncomfortability. I also despise political-correctness; however think it prudent to bury this archaic usage of black/white. Block/Allow list it shall be. – rdtsc Nov 2 '15 at 2:08

Blocklist is a well known synonym for blacklist. For example, the Wikipedia article on blacklists can be looked up under blocklist. A major spam tracker, Spamhaus, uses the term.

As for whitelist, it's pretty much universal. That's the term Spamhaus uses, and there are no Wikipedia redirects from other terms (other than alternate spellings).

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Then again I don't think we should use something other than blacklist in combination with whitelist. Then the underlying reasoning shines through a bit too much. I wouldn't be surprised if a common user query would be then why don't they use blacklist. the alternative words have to be good enough for the user never thinking in terms of black/white -list. – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:42

I think the words blacklist and whitelist are so pervasive as to be inoffensive. However if you would like to avoid them, I would suggest something like:


As in 'the device is safe to be used with that SIM'. I'm not sure what you could use for the opposite though.

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I think if I were to use an antonym for Safelist it would be blocklist, as per @MetaEd suggested – Pureferret Dec 8 '11 at 17:36
It does have a nice ring to it, thanks for the tip! – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:17

I wouldn't consider Black List or White List to be controversial because they are both widely acceptable phrases and are not derived from a racial context.

However, if you absolutely must play it safe, you could use the following pairs.

'Accepted' <-> 'Rejected'
'Go' <-> 'No Go'
'Yea' <-> 'Nay'
share|improve this answer
I don't think its credible to say they are not derived from a racial context because "black-white dualism" is descendant from western (i.e. European) culture. The Chinese Yin-Yang use black-white to represent complementary forces. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-and-white_dualism and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_or_Yang (although the first is not well cited). – David W Nov 17 '12 at 19:02

Why not stretch the well-known (at least in technology) acronym ACL? While the term commonly applies to controlling access for users and networking devices, there's no good reason it couldn't be used to describe other kinds of access control. Then the individual files that make up the ACL can be referred to as the include ACL and the exclude ACL.

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+1 it's not a bad suggestion, and it differs from what anyone else has proposed. However I fear the connection is a little too vague, and that the acronym isn't prevalent enough to be understood by all.. But thanks any ways! – AndroidHustle Dec 9 '11 at 8:34

There are already numerous good suggestions, but because some possibilities like green-list and stop-list haven't been mentioned, I decided to list several additional possible pairs:

• pass/stop • go/stop • go/no • pro/con • yes/no • green/red • we/de • good/bad •

For example, “go/no” represents the pair of names, “go-list” and “no-list” (or “go list” and “no list” if you prefer to leave out the hyphens). Some pairs are better with hyphens, and some without.

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Thanks for your suggestions! I argued this with my product owner (who was the one who wanted to change it in the first place) who finally decided to keep Black/white -list. I believe he's still sceptical about it though. And the feature hasn't been introduced to the product yet so the terms may come to change, I'll definitely discuss the ones you mentioned with him. thanks! – AndroidHustle Aug 16 '12 at 7:11

protected by RegDwigнt Dec 9 '11 at 7:27

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