Technology

Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voices censored words like “gay” and “lesbian”

TikTokers have demonstrated that Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voice, meant to sound like Rocket the Raccoon, would refuse to learn words like “homosexual,” “lesbian,” or “queer” out loud. This determination appears to have been reverted — now you can get the voice to learn out these words, however it’s unclear why it was occurring. The change, nevertheless, could be very current — The Verge confirmed that the voice wouldn’t say the words, however it began to take action in a subsequent check minutes in a while Monday afternoon. TikTok hasn’t commented on why this occurred, however movies posted to spotlight the problem nonetheless have the words blanked out.

Rocket’s voice was launched to TikTok’s text-to-speech characteristic as a part of a Disney Plus Day promotion final week. Different voices, like C-3PO and Stitch from Lilo and Sew, are additionally alleged to be a part of the promotion, however not like Rocket’s voice they should be unlocked through the use of secret phrases.

Previous to the change, Rocket’s voice would skip over the words talked about above (however appeared to don’t have any subject with words like “transgender” or “bisexual”), although you would simply get the character to say it with phonetically comparable misspellings like “qweer.” Making an attempt to make it learn textual content that solely contained one of many banned words would lead to an error saying that text-to-speech wasn’t supported for the language. TikTok’s personal built-in, non-Disney voices would learn the phrase “homosexual” simply positive, both by itself or in a sentence.

A TikTok making the rounds reveals what would occur earlier than the change — Rocket wouldn’t say words like “homosexual” or “queer,” however would say “homophobic.”

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Making an attempt to pick out Rocket to learn the phrase “homosexual” would lead to an error message.

Disney has by no means had an ideal observe document in relation to LGBTQ illustration — a lot of its iconic villains have historically been queer-coded (one thing you couldn’t say utilizing Rocket’s voice), and its newer efforts at illustration have been limited to single scenes or lines which are straightforward to edit out. TikTok additionally has a historical past of repeatedly breaking the intersex tag that activists used for activism and schooling, which the corporate claimed was a mistake.

Nonetheless, outright censoring words about queer identities appears like a stronger step than both firm would often soak up 2021. It’s unclear what led them to take action within the first place, and why the choice was reversed. Neither Disney nor TikTok instantly responded to repeated requests for remark.

Neither firm has defined why this determination was made or reversed

It’s at all times potential that this was applied for well-meaning, if not misguided functions — bullies have lengthy used each homosexual and lesbian in an try and insult individuals who don’t establish as such. Nonetheless, it’s exhausting to think about a more practical bullying tactic than actually stopping queer individuals from speaking about their identities.

Whereas it’s comprehensible that Disney wouldn’t need its characters’ voices studying issues that aren’t family-friendly like critical swears or slurs (although it’s price noting that Rocket tosses out phrases like “jackass” and “douchebag” in Guardians of the Galaxy), we’re properly previous the purpose the place labeling LGBTQ+ individuals’s identities as antithetical to household values is suitable.

It ought to go with out saying that many households embrace queer individuals, together with ones which are youngsters in Disney’s goal demographic, who might need to use TikTok’s text-to-speech characteristic to speak about their lives and experiences. Whereas it’s good that this determination seems to have been reversed (although it’s unclear why or by whom), it’s one which shouldn’t have been made within the first place.

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