Facebook rudely translating Chinese President’s name?!

Facebook has apologised for translating the Chinese President’s (She Jinping’s) name as “Mr Shithole”. During his visit to Mi-yan-mar this week. The company said the incident was due to a “technical issue” that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook.

Facebook and their Awkward Situation

The technical error produced a rather embarrassing and awkward situation for all the parties involved. As part of his visit to the  Mi-yan-mar, President “SHE”  met with a State Counsellor Ang san suu chi to sign various infrastructure agreements backed by China. A post about the visit was published to suu chi’s official Facebook page, which meant that it was loaded with references to “Mr Shithole” when translated to English.

Additionally, according to Reuters, a headline from the local news site The Irrawaddy was translated as, “Dinner honors president shithole.”

Facebook said it had fixed the technical issue. Reuters reported that Google’s translation system did not produce the same error.

“This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters. “We sincerely apologise for the offence this has caused.”

Facebook explained that the error occurred because its system did not have President SHE’s name in its Burmese database. So it guessed the translation. After running translation tests, the company found that its system also translated similar words. Which start with “SHE” and “shi” in Burmese to “shithole” in English.

Kenneth Wong, a Burmese language instructor at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times that he could understand why a machine would have made that translation error. Wong said that President SHE’s name sounds similar to “chi kyin phyin,”. Which roughly translates to “faeces hole buttocks” in Burmese.


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