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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 none allowed 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 overexcited for any of these words... =\

My question here is if you guys first and foremost also sense these terms as being slightly controversial and also if you have any ideas for terms to use instead?

EDIT: This question has been posted on English StackExchange for anyone who is curious.

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4  
You may have better luck at english.stackexchange.com –  Aaron McIver Dec 8 '11 at 16:12
    
It would be correct to say that a phone could be on a blacklist but not the SIM card. Are you using the word to describe list of phones that are outside the "allowed" list of devices? Or are you describing the SIM card being blocked because it someone tried to use it with a phone that was not allowed? –  JeroenEijkhof Dec 8 '11 at 16:14
    
@AaronMcIver ohh thanks, I didn't know of that branch! =) –  AndroidHustle Dec 8 '11 at 16:22
9  
The words don't have origin in racial terms (as English.SE will tell you), and they are extremely common and well understood terms. Changing the wording may placate the 1% of users who incorrectly find these terms "offensive" and risk confusing a large % of users who find the other terms unintuitive or inaccurate. –  Ben Brocka Dec 8 '11 at 16:27
1  
@BenBrocka I know, that's a very good point. –  AndroidHustle Dec 8 '11 at 16:40
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4 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

There is no evidence that I have seen that deems the term 'Blacklist' to be offensive; in fact it is valid computer terminology. Being blacklisted is a negative term, but that is the point of the word: Black and White are contrasting.

If you need other terms then it's easy to go with 'Blocked List' but then you're left with the opposing side being an 'allowed-list' which isn't as cognitively associated with 'Blocked' as 'Black' is with 'White'.

There are no racist connotations here unless you are wanting to find one; just as there is no racist connotations to being 'Blackballed', or having a 'Black book'.

For some extra reference: Black and White are also used in a software testing capacity - black-box testing and white-box testing and these are perfectly acceptable and non-offensive terms.

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1  
While I agree with your points; I would be interested to hear from the english.stackexchange.com folks on the history of the words and how they came about. –  Aaron McIver Dec 8 '11 at 16:23
8  
The history of blacklist is well understood and the oxford English dictionary and Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacklist#History) show no history of racial connotations in the actual history of the word. If someone is telling you the terms are racist, strike them over the head with a hardcover copy of the OED. –  Ben Brocka Dec 8 '11 at 16:30
    
I totally get your point, and I wouldn't surprised if all we're doing is creating a problem that really isn't there. I will use the references you listed here in our next discussion. @AaronMcIver I would also find that interesting, I will post this question on that forum as well, using the same subject. I'll link it in an edit in this question! =) –  AndroidHustle Dec 8 '11 at 16:33
    
Black ball comes from a practice where N white balls and 1 black ball were placed in a bag and each person picked a ball out of the bag. The one with the black ball was the one chosen - usually for some unpleasantness - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackballing –  ChrisF Dec 8 '11 at 16:37
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Another consideration with blacklist vs whitelist is that, in my experience anyways, the two terms are not often applied simultaneously - you generally use one or the other. For instance, content filtering systems often work by either blacklisting "bad" sites/keywords (removing the bad but allowing all others, generally a less restrictive effect) or by whitelisting "good" sites/keywords (blocking all others, generally a more restrictive effect). –  peteorpeter Dec 8 '11 at 20:35
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  • Banned/Ignored/Invalid List
  • Valid/Legit/Trustworthy List

I don't believe you have to have contradictory style wording as that may hinder what you are trying to convey.

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My worry with substituting these terms is that they're not as obviously associated, so you may get into a conversation like: "What are the Ignored and Legit lists?" - "Oh, they're like blacklists and whitelists". –  JonW Dec 8 '11 at 16:35
    
hehe... my colleague liked "Legit", he thought it sounded gangsta. =) –  AndroidHustle Dec 8 '11 at 16:35
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I don't know why we have three type of status. In my point of view, Do we need different types "Unblack list & Allowed list" two?. We can combined both like:

  • Active (green)
  • Inactive (red)

If you need one more option in "Active/Inactive" status (you can use one more grouping in the same)

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If you really want an alternative, try green lighted/red lighted, or some phrasal variation with those colors.

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