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Monday, November 29, 2021

Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voices censored phrases like “homosexual” and “lesbian”

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TikTokers have demonstrated that Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voice, meant to sound like Rocket the Raccoon, would refuse to learn phrases like “homosexual,” “lesbian,” or “queer” out loud. This choice appears to have been reverted — now you can get the voice to learn out these phrases, but it surely’s unclear why it was taking place. The change, nonetheless, could be very latest — The Verge confirmed that the voice wouldn’t say the phrases, but it surely 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 phrases blanked out.

Rocket’s voice was launched to TikTok’s text-to-speech characteristic as part of a Disney Plus Day promotion final week. Different voices, like C-3PO and Stitch from Lilo and Sew, are additionally purported 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 phrases talked about above (however appeared to don’t have any situation with phrases like “transgender” or “bisexual”), although you would simply get the character to say it with phonetically related misspellings like “qweer.” Making an attempt to make it learn textual content that solely contained one of many banned phrases would end in 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 advantageous, both by itself or in a sentence.

A TikTok making the rounds exhibits what would occur earlier than the change — Rocket wouldn’t say phrases 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 end in an error message.

Disney has by no means had an amazing monitor document relating to LGBTQ illustration — lots 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 simple to edit out. TikTok also has a history of repeatedly breaking the intersex tag that activists used for activism and schooling, which the corporate claimed was a mistake.

Nonetheless, outright censoring phrases about queer identities looks 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.

It’s all the time attainable that this was carried out for well-meaning, if not misguided functions — bullies have lengthy used each homosexual and lesbian in an try to insult individuals who don’t determine as such. Nonetheless, it’s arduous to think about a simpler bullying tactic than actually stopping queer folks 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 severe swears or slurs (although it’s price noting that Rocket tosses out phrases like “jackass” and “douchebag” in Guardians of the Galaxy), we’re nicely previous the purpose the place labeling LGBTQ+ folks’s identities as antithetical to household values is suitable.

It ought to go with out saying that many households embody queer folks, together with ones which are kids 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 choice 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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