Facebook Apologizes After Vulgar Translation of Chinese Leader's Name

Image: Screenshot: JasonLee/Reuters

Facebook issued an apology Saturday after a translation error left Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s name as “Mr. Shithole” in posts on its platform when translated into English from Burmese. The social-media company vowed to figure out how the error occurred but said that the problem had since been fixed. 

On the second day of Jinping’s visit to Myanmar, a post on Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page was littered with references to “Mr. Shithole” when translated to English. Reuters reports that a headline in a local newspaper the Irrawaddy appeared as “Dinner honors president shithole.” 

“We have fixed an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook and are working to identify the cause to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Facebook said in a statement. “This issue is not a reflection of the way our products should work and we sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused.”



Image: Screenshot: Twitter@poppymcp



"We have fixed an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook and are working to identify the cause to ensure that it doesn’t happen again," Facebook said in a statement. "This issue is not a reflection of the way our products should work and we sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused."
China is Facebook’s biggest country for revenue after the United States, and the tech company is setting up a new engineering team to focus specifically on the lucrative advertising business there, Reuters reported last week.
“We are aware of an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook, and we’re doing everything we can to fix this as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for the tech company said in a statement.
“This issue is not a reflection of the way our products should work and we sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused.”
Facebook has faced numerous problems with translation from Burmese in the past. In 2018 it temporarily removed the function after a Reuters report showed the tool was producing bizarre results.
An investigation documented how the company was failing in its efforts to combat vitriolic Burmese language posts about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, some 730,000 of whom fled a military crackdown in 2017 that the UN has said was conducted with “genocidal intent”.
It also showed the translation feature was flawed, citing an anti-Rohingya post advocating killing Muslims that was translated into English as “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar” -Reuters

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