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People with commonly autocorrected names call for tech firms to fix problem

<span>People with Irish, Indian and Welsh names are among those calling for improvements to the systems that operate on phones and computers.</span><span>Photograph: Yuri Arcurs/Alamy</span>
People with Irish, Indian and Welsh names are among those calling for improvements to the systems that operate on phones and computers.Photograph: Yuri Arcurs/Alamy

People whose names get mangled by autocorrect have urged technology companies to fix the problem faster, with one person whose name gets switched to “Satan” saying: “I am tired of it.”

People with Irish, Indian and Welsh names are among those calling for improvements to the systems that operate on phones and computers as part of the “I am not a typo” campaign.

“It is important that technology becomes more inclusive,” said Savan-Chandni Gandecha, 34, a British Indian content creator whose name, which means monsoon moonlight, has been autocorrected to Satan.

“My name has also been corrected to Savant,” they said. “It is sometimes corrected to Savan, or the hyphen is not accepted by online forms and that irks me.

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“Even in India my name gets corrected to ‘Sawan’, and it’s not just an English issue. It’s a multi-language thing.”

The campaign has estimated that four out of 10 names of babies born in England and Wales in 2021 were deemed “wrong” or “not accepted” when tested on Microsoft’s English dictionary.

Dhruti Shah, a journalist, has backed the campaign after seeing her name autocorrected to “Dirty” and “Dorito”.

She said: “My first name isn’t even that long – only six characters – but yet when it comes up as an error or it’s mangled and considered an unknown entity, it’s like saying that it’s not just your name that’s wrong, but you are.”

The campaign group – established by a group of people working in the creative industries in London – wrote an open letter to technology companies, which pointed out that between 2017 and 2021, 2,328 people named Esmae were born, compared with 36 Nigels. Esmae gets autocorrected to Admar, while Nigel is unchanged.

“There are so many diverse names in the global majority but autocorrect is western- and white-focused,” said Gandecha.

Facebook and Microsoft have been approached for comment.

Microsoft has previously launched an inclusiveness spellchecker in its Office 365 software, which can be enabled to prompt the user, for example, to switch “headmaster” to “principal”, “master” to “expert” and “manpower” to “workforce”.

Last year, People Like Us, a not for profit organisation, ran a billboard campaign highlighting autocorrect bias in favour of British heritage and linked the issue to the ethnicity pay gap.

Rashmi Dyal-Chand, a professor at Northeastern University in the US whose name is sometimes corrected to Sashimi, is supporting the latest campaign and said: “For people with names like mine, autocorrect is not convenient and helpful. It is unhelpful. And yes – it is harmful.”

Her research into the racial bias of autocorrect concluded: “We all increasingly rely on smartphones, tablets, word processors, and apps that use autocorrect. Yet autocorrect incorporates a set of defaults – including dictionaries – that help some of its users to communicate seamlessly at the expense of others who cannot.”

Karen Fox, whose children are called Eoin and Niamh, said of autocorrect: “The red line bothers me – I didn’t choose the ‘wrong’ name for my child. Tech companies update dictionaries with slang all the time and I think it should be an easy thing to do and definitely a priority.”

Common girls’ names of children born in 2021 that tend to be autocorrected:

Dua (which switches to Day)

Mirha (Moths)

Liyana (Libyans)

Common boys’ names that puzzle the software:

Rafe (Rage)

Mylo (Mull)

Eesa (Reds)