Winnie the shit?
Facebook said on Saturday it was trying to figure out how the name of China's president-cum-dictator for life, Xi Jinping, appeared as "Mr Shithole" in posts when translated into English from Burmese, apologizing for any offense caused and saying the problem had been fixed.
The "error" emerged on the second day of Xi Jinping's visit to the Southeast Asian country, where Xi and state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi signed dozens of agreements covering massive Beijing-backed infrastructure plans. A statement about the visit published on Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page was littered with references to “Mr Shithole” when translated to English, while a headline in local news journal the Irrawaddy appeared as "Dinner honors president shithole”.
Umm. Facebook seems to be translating “Xi Jinping” written in Burmese as “Mr Shithole”.— Poppy McPherson (@poppymcp) January 18, 2020
This is a post on Aung San Suu Kyi’s official page, recounting her meeting with him yesterday... h/t @felizysolo
”kingdom of Mr Shithole” pic.twitter.com/B4V2cYjPJw
It was unclear how long the issue had lasted but Google’s translation function did not show the same error, prompting amused commentary on social media.
"Xi Jinping"— Rt Rev Sir Chris Pamplemousse Esq. 🇪🇺 #FBPE🕷 (@ChrisMousse3) January 18, 2020
No problem. 👍
Keep your head down, Zuck. 😬 https://t.co/UVk7Li8SK2
In a statement, Facebook said that “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,”
This issue is not a reflection of the way our products should work and we sincerely apologize for the offence this has caused," Facebook added and it had plenty of reasons to be concerned: China is Facebook’s biggest country for revenue after the US and the 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 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."
This is not the first time Facebook has faced problems with translation from Burmese. 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 United Nations 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."