A Stanford University internal review published earlier this year has received criticism on social media this week after a Wall Street Journal editorial highlighted its recommended list of “harmful language.”

The term “American” is included under the “imprecise language” category, while the authors of the index instead recommend using “U.S. Citizen.” The authors argue that calling yourself an American insinuates “that the U.S. is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).”

The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is part of a multiphase project reviewing language used in Stanford’s technology community. The initiative’s stated goal is to “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent and biased language in Stanford websites and code.” 

The guide includes 10 “harmful language” categories: ableist, ageism, colonialism, culturally appropriative, gender-based, imprecise language, institutionalized racism, person-first, violent and additional considerations.

The initiative includes supplemental considerations for over a hundred terms. The language-guide identifies terms such as “basket case” or “blind study” and instead encourages the use of “nervous” and “masked study” to not “unintentionally perpetuate ableist culture.”

Screenshot from the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative

Among the words considered offensive is “Hispanic” — the authors instead suggest the word “Latinx.” The index guide says that although the word Hispanic is widely used to refer to people of Spanish-speaking countries, the term is too closely tied to Spain’s colonization of South America. It also suggests asking the individual how they identify themselves.

The Journal’s editorial said the index was public but the university placed it behind a login firewall this week after it surfaced on social media. 

A number of social media influencers and politicians voiced their disdain on Twitter for Stanford’s index of discouraged words.

Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn accused “the radical left of attempting to destroy our country and erase our history.”

Twitter CEO Elon Musk expressed surprise that Stanford would disapprove of the use of the term American. “This has gone too far, to say the least! @Stanford, what is your explanation for this madness?” he tweeted. Musk has ties to the institution, but only loosely. He enrolled in a Stanford doctorate physics program in 1995, but dropped out after only two days.

Dee Mostofi, a spokesperson for the university, told Fox News the index is intended for “internal use.”

“Stanford’s style guidelines are meant for internal use, often for individual workgroups,” Mostofi said. “In this case, the EHLI website was specifically created by and intended for use within the university IT community. It will continue to be refined based on ongoing input from the community.”